Swedish band JONO started as a solo project of singer Johan Norrby (hence the moniker ”JoNo”), who has been singing, writing, and playing music in various bands and projects over the years. This applies also for all the other members of the band. Guitarist Stefan Helleblad is a member of Dutch symphonic sensations Within Temptation. Drummer Nicka Hellenberg also played all the drums on Within Temptation’s “The Unforgiving” and has an impressive resume involving bands and recordings. Both keyboard player Johan Carlgren and bass player Janne Henriksson are frequently hired for both live and studio sessions. Leo Olsson – also a busy musician – joined the band in 2015.
This album was quite fun to listen to. It is definitely progressive rock / metal that has a Queen, Kansas and Dream Theater feel to it. The songs feel like you are listening to a grand story with some phenomenal vocals and music to support the story. There needs to be more music like JONO done as well as they have done it on this album. The listener is taken on a ten song journey that when the album finishes you feel like it was a very satisfying experience that you were lucky to be a part of. You will find lots of 5-7 minute songs on this release, that not only have great vocals, but blazing guitar to support it.
The album starts with “Sailors” which is one of the shorter tracks at just over four minutes. The progressive feel is there right from the beginning. The listener gets to experience how the vocals are going to be from Johan Norrby for the duration of the album. Great range and a very lively voice. You also get your first taste of the guitar work and solo from Stefan Helleblad. It is a very good opening song for the album and gets you excited to hear more.
The next song I would like to highlight is “No Return” which is one of my favorites. It starts out slow and the whole song feels a bit haunting. This song has the feel of something you might hear in live theater. It makes the song feel alive. It even has some chorus backing vocals that remind you of Queen. There is a keyboard solo and then a guitar solo with vocals over the beginning that really fits into the whole atmosphere of the song. The song is very grand and is fantastic. You can watch the video below.
As we continue to listen we come to the over seven minute epic “Down Side“. This song has a great balance of keyboards and guitar and there is a little bit of everything in this song. There are parts where Johan sings a bit like Dio in this song, but Johan definitely has his own distinctive style as well. This song also has a great atmosphere to it. I would love to put this song on my record player and turn the lights off in my music room and just be engrossed in it. As we get to the end of the song it really picks up and ends with a great albeit eerie drum beat.
The album wraps up with “The March“. The song starts with great piano work and is very soft with some amazing high vocals. I usually would find it strange for such a grand album to finish with such a soft song, but this fits perfectly. It brings you back down to earth after such an amazing ride listening to this album. The final minute has a very interesting piano ending that once again is very different, but fits perfectly.
A lot of bands try to make an album like this, but very few succeed. At times this album feels like going to Phantom of the Opera which of course is one of the greatest musicals of all time. I know some people can be turned off by terms like “Live Theater or Show Tunes”, but in this case, don’t be. This album is amazing and does it perfectly. I highly recommend if you like progressive metal / rock and love an album that feels alive, you should pick up “Life” by JONO. This album was a very pleasant surprise to me and I highly recommend it.
Review Score: 4.5/5.0
On The Other Side
To Be Near You
PRODUCED BY: STEFAN HELLEBLAD AND JONO
STUDIO: SANDKVIE STUDIO
RECORDED BY: STEFAN HELLEBLAD / “THE MARCH” RECORDED BY PETER OTHBERG
MIXED BY: STEFAN HELLEBLAD
MASTERED BY: STEVE FALLONE / STERLING SOUND, NEW YORK
CROWN REMIX MASTERED BY: STEFAN HELLEBLAD
JOHAN NORRBY – lead vocals
JOHAN CARLGREN – piano/keyboards
STEFAN HELLEBLAD – lead guitar, guitars
LEO OLSSON – guitars
JANNE HENRIKSSON – bass
NICKA HELLENBERG – drums