Their success was a complete surprise at the time. In 1983, when the song Garden Party went round the world, the four boys from Iceland had just come of age. Since then, MEZZOFORTE has been considered Europe’s most important fusion band. In 2012, the band celebrates its 35th anniversary and is still sparking all over the place. The new ISLANDS album documents the band’s process of maturing musically and adds another gem to its discography.
In 2006, the three founding members Eythor Gunnarsson, Johann Asmundsson and Gulli Briem expanded the band with the guitarist Bruno Müller and trumpet player Sebastian Studnitzky. In 2013 the Swedish saxophonist Jonas Wall joined the band. This mixture of band history and fresh blood created new energy that has only grown in innumerable club and festival acts between Oslo and Tokyo, Cape Town and Moscow.
The new album was recorded at studios in the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, on the Vestman Islands, the Faeroe Islands and finally at the legendary Hansa Studio in Berlin, from whose windows you used to be able to look out over the Berlin Wall which surrounded the ‘island’ of West Berlin. Hence the title of the album, ISLANDS. Knowing the band’s origin helps you understand its special, immediately recognizable sound. Somewhat separated from the world, artists in Iceland revolve much more around themselves, often developing a more characteristic and emotional style than artists caught up in the hectic rush on the continent, In MEZZOFORTE’s case, this splendid Icelandic isolation prompted them to develop unbelievably melodious themes. Entire generations of musicians grew up with the music of MEZZOFORTE and countless radio and TV programmes used their themes – from the BBC to the weather forecast of the Russian Pacific Fleet, as the band recently learned on the occasion of an appearance at a festival in Vladivostok.
On ISLANDS, MEZZOFORTE sounds much more ‘acoustic’ than usual. Instead of the keyboards, the brilliant Eythor Gunnarsson prefers the grand piano more and more. The drums of Gulli Briem sound more “jazzy”, Bruno Müller’s guitar is funky and smacking in a clubbing style, the wind section uses its space for characteristic solos and Johann Asmundsson keeps the whole thing together with his grooving bass.
Is ISLANDS a perfect fusion CD? Yes, but why such categorization? MEZZOFORTE have produced a fantastic album. With music that sounds timelessly beautiful and marvellously relaxed and elegant. Anyone who has a chance to experience this band with its furious instrumentalists in a live show will know what artistic fire is in this formation.