by Kris Handel (@khandel84)
Flagland’s swan song Two Brothers and a Ghost is half concept record of suites with many twists and turns and half somewhat joyous pop-punk revelry. Kerry Kallberg manages to exercise some personal insecurities through the story of King Bug and his rise and fall, in all its prog-punk soundtracked glory. Kallberg along with Dan Francia and Nick Dooley, on bass and drums respectively, have a strong musical connection and ability to work in and around each other makes everything coalesce. Kallberg manages to shift his vocals from delicate pleading to a roar whenever the moment calls for it and creates varied states in his characters and songwriting that adds stability and depth to some of the more fantasizing moments.
“King Bug in the Wasteland” is a bit of aggressive punk prog that recalls a mid-90s Primus influence that contains a slinky vibe throughout the tale of possible glory rising out of the muck and mire that also incorporates some jittered post-punk and even a bit of classical music referencing. Kallberg’s story telling reaches its height as it exposes the anxiety and toll that anger and burning uncertainty can take on someone’s psyche as he nervously exhorts “My God/Covered in blood/He’ll burn this whole world down to crud/My rage on every page/I thought the fire would tire with rage…”. “Chokin’ (the Fire Sermon)" follows with a repeating guitar pattern and interwoven bass line highlighting the continued anxiety of lines like “...You’re not wearing the ghost of yourself/Like a stone around your neck/Chokin’/Chokin’…”. “Chokin’”s examination of identity and being the idea of “regular” or “normal” or just being seen at all is a bit nerve-wracking and the repeating guitar work plays on that until the end blasts off into a bit of a bright indie guitar jam lending relief.
“Burn, King Bug, Burn” is a tale of working through the mundanity of existence and feeling small in the scope of everything but being consumed with desires and feelings that don’t exactly correspond with the outside world. Kallberg and company once again manage to lighten things up a little with a bright burst of power-pop towards the middle of the song that eventually gives way to a determined yet bleak ending in the universe of King Bug. Things take a bit of a lighter tone after the release that is “Burn, King Bug, Burn," or at least relatively so, as to what has come before. “S.D” is one of the lighter touches on the record with Kallberg yowling over guitar and piano chords through a resolute tale of quirky familial relationships. “Silverfish Friend” is the poppiest tune on the record with it’s mod-ish melody and flowing guitar work that gives way to a bit of a pop-punk burst that provides a nice brightness before the closing dirge of “Falling Dark”.
Flagland manage to show their musical acumen throughout Two Brothers and a Ghost and although the emotional exploration gets a bit heavy at time, there’s always a little reminder that light and humor still have a role to play. The extended song structures never really drag, and the band always remains cohesive and locked in. There isn’t much time to wander or drift or you may miss a bit of the fun. Flagland enjoy playing around with your expectations as a listener to the progress of what a song is and throw a lot at you in the compositions, but the almost instantaneous changes are always welcome and bring different color to a record that rarely stays in one place too long. The creative energy that Flagland possessed is missed in the musical landscape and this farewell record was among the most overlooked of 2017.