Kharma – Wonderland [2000]

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There was quite a buzz in the AOR community when this album came out and especially for me it’s great to finally see a band take advantage of Goran Edman’s fantastic vocal talent. Kharma is the result of ten years worth of writing and demo work, consists of session musicians, who decided to try a band project. They obtained the services of Goran Edman and used the guitarists’ studio, which is meant to be one of the best in theSweden.

Singer and front man Goran Edman’s vocal artistry is impressive, and he worked with a lot of groups and artists, among them Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Vincent, Talisman, John Norum, Glory, Brazen Abbot, Reingold and others. Guitarist Dragan Tanaskovic, also responsible for the production, owns Bohus Studios, one of Scandinavias leading recording studios. Together with Kharma keyboarder Atilla Szabo, he developed Vanessa, a project that ended in Kharma. Bass player Joel Starander (Swedeish Erotica, Sha-Boom) and drummer Imre Daun (Alien, Don Patrol, Gypsy Rose) added their best to this band. As a special guest we meet Mats Olausson (Yngwie Malmsteen, Glory, Roxette, John Norum, Talk of the Town, Kee Marcello, Baltimoore), an old friend of Goran Edman, played in the Kharma demos, and he was more than willing to add his artistry on keyboards on it.

“Wonderland” is a great mix of pomp rock and AOR. Styx, Kansas, Queen and Journey are the obvious comparisons, but Kharma manages to blend the styles without sounding like a copycat. Much credit goes to Edman’s vocal performance. He really sounds his best in an AOR setting, and his voice on Wonderland is strong, melodic, emotional and dramatic, everything you could possibly ask for. There is a real buzz of energy listing to this album. One has to have an appreciation for the moreover the top pomp and ceremony of 70s rock to understand how good this really is. But even if you are a late 80s or 90s kid, then the freshness of these songs should be enough to involve you in them. Not only is there plenty of guitar and keyboards, but horns, percussion, brass and more backing vocals and harmony layers that one could hope for.

Opener “Free Yourself “, grabs your attention with the fresh clean sound that the album has throughout. A breezy up tempo feel good rocker with a intense mix of guitar,hammondorgan, brass and keyboards. Simply fantastic! “Wonderland” used in conjunction with piano to good effect. The pomp overtones, song structure and Goran’s Dennis De Young style vocals all combine to remind ofStyx. Intro’d by a thinkhammondorgan sound and tight instrumental mix, with majestic soaring multilayered vocals drenched in organ and guitar and the chorus is so over the top. The sound and production is so good it’s scary. Guitars and vocal give “Knowing You” a good opening before it develops into a normal melodic rock song, and the song stays on the format until the once again multi layered 70s pomp chorus. “Burn Forever” is the big power ballad of the album. Darker, orchestrated and dramatic, just like those classic ballads of the 70s.

For “In Chains”, the continuing keyboards and strong harmonical voice give a Foreigner touch which you also here in “Standing Alone”. “In Chains” is one of the more musically original songs of the album. A heavy, mid tempo, keyboard driven track, with intense vocals and a darker guitar sound while “Standing Alone” returns to a more up lifting feel, sounds a little more 80s and has another chorus drenched in harmony vocals. “Part Time Lovers” is another original track with a softer verse, with a dark and heavy chorus and “Angel Eyes” is one more dark and moody track. The chorus is a big soaring ballad with symphonic backing. Intense! Malmsteen fans will love that ballad, which sounds like an “Eclipse” or “Fire and Ice” bonus track. “Ray of Sunshine” is a faced paced up lifting track was needed about now and this track delivers. More 70s influences with a Jethro Tull inspired flute in use. A great fast paced chorus with similarities to Queen andStyx. “Spell on You” is a song that will wake you up with it’s speedy. A dark and heavy guitar track with more organ and 70s feel. A really solid thump to the rhythm section and quite an intense song. “Don’t Close Your Eyes” is another highlight of the album. A equal mix of originality, Foreigner andKansasand a killer keyboard filled chorus with awesome vocals. “Hold On” is one of the few more straight forward tracks on the album. An up tempo European style rocker and “Wings of  History” closing the record, with a very cool slow intro with moody keyboard feel and haunting vocal. A power ballad with a chorus that is Queen all over. A dark and sentimental, song.

OnJapanthe album contains one more song as a bonus called “Cold As Ice” and in my opinion everyone should get this song as part of the album. This is a huge Deep Purple style blues rock anthem with a killer chorus and soaring vocals. Kharma’s Wonderland is one of the most energetic and highly original AOR albums I have heard. The title says it all. Certainly it is one of MTM’s most innovative releases ever, and should appeal to all AOR/Classic rock fans, particularly fans ofStyx,Kansas, Journey and Queen.

Band Members
Goran Edman – Vocals
Dragan Tanaskovic – Guitars
Atilla Szabo – Keyboards, piano, organ
Joel Starander – Bass
Imre Daun – Drums, percussion

Additional Musician
Mats Olausson – Keyboards

Tracks
1.   Free Yourself
2.   Wonderland
3.   Knowing You
4.   Burn Forever
5.   In Chains
6.   Standing Alone
7.   Part Time Lovers
8.   Angel Eyes
9.   Ray of Sunshine
10.   Spell on You
11.   Don’t Close Your Eyes
12.   Hold On
13.   Wings of History
JapanBonus Track
Cold As Ice

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Rating: 8.7/10 (6 votes cast)
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Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
Kharma - Wonderland [2000], 8.7 out of 10 based on 6 ratings