Relatively speaking, there hasn’t been much word out of Swedish fuzz rockers Asteroid‘s camp since they signed to Small Stone about a year ago. They played Desertfest (review here) and did other shows as well, but after losing drummer Elvis Campbell in 2010, the focus seems to have been on resolidifying the trio with new percussionist Henrik Jannson alongside guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse and bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson. If that seems like a while to get things hammered out, then weigh that time against the organic nature of Asteroid‘s approach and it will probably make more sense — purveyors of laid back groove and whole-grain fuzz that they are, one imagines it takes some time to get the vibe just so, like trying to make sure a painting is even on all sides. Toward the end of last year, Asteroid issued their first offering with the Jannson/Hirse/Nilsson lineup, a self-released, limited 7″ single featuring the songs “Move a Mountain” and “One Foot in the Grave.” Strictly speaking, it’s the first Asteroid studio output since 2010’s much-loved II (review here) dropped courtesy of Fuzzorama, and as quick as it is, the new tracks are nonetheless a welcome arrival, hopefully heralding a new full-length to come, if not this year than sometime sooner rather than later.
It is short, though. “One Foot in the Grave,” a straightforward, heavy rocking B side less jammy than some of Asteroid‘s material, is reportedly the shortest thing the Fuzzorama alums have ever done, and I tend to believe it. Even the bluesier “Move a Mountain” feels relatively frill-less, though Hirse still finds room for an engaging solo in an instrumental break. It’s a blues, not 12-bar, but of a similar descending construction, and the three-piece sound at least as organic as they did on II, the vinyl’s compression only pushing forward the richness in Nilsson‘s tone and the rush of the guitar. As ever, the dual vocals from Hirse and Nilsson are a distinguishing factor (more on side B), and their approach remains neither completely aligned to a straightforward heavy rock take nor to Sweden’s oh-so-prominent post-Graveyard retro set. It’s mainly the open space in their songwriting that allows them to distinguish themselves so, and Jannson has made himself right at home in the groove of “Move a Mountain,” punctuating the bassline while Hirse strums out a teasing lead line near the song’s midpoint before a dead stop brings about a return to the verse. Hard to imagine this jam wouldn’t be longer live, but there’s only so much room on a 7″ single and they do well working efficiently anyhow, highlighting the catchiness of their blues and the lack of pretense with which they present it as the structure once again gives way to an instrumental break, Jannson‘s cymbals playing as much of a role in the build as Hirse‘s guitar and Nilsson‘s bass — the trio ideal.
The driving groove they elicit as the “Move a Mountain” peaks (get it?) bodes well for the dynamics they might be able to bring to a full-length, and on the other side of the platter, “One Foot in the Grave” is more of a shuffle — not necessarily in a rush, but an uptempo, classic groover that Nilsson and Hirse top with quick verses that leave little room for instrumental explorations. More than “Move a Mountain,” “One Foot in the Grave” is a departure, but it’s not necessarily out of character either with what Asteroid did on II, though were it to appear on that record, it would probably be more developed. The temptation is to read some change into it that might show up on a subsequent full-length, but really, it’s just the B side of a limited single and if Asteroid are signalling a shift in approach or some development of their style, likely that won’t come at the expense of any of the tonal warmth that has typified both of their full-lengths or their earlier debut split with Blowback. These guys arrived with a good sense of what they wanted to do, and “One Foot in the Grave” is enough in line with that so as not to be jarring so much in its approach — they’re not all of a sudden ripping out black metal screams or something — as it is for the sheer fact that it’s faster and shorter. It’s a fun experiment, and if Asteroid work in some higher-tempo material on their next record, the variety can really only make it a stronger offering.
Really, from my standpoint, that’s what Move a Mountain/One Foot in the Grave is accomplishing: It’s Asteroid signalling that despite the lineup change, the personality of the band remains intact and they’ve been working on getting themselves back up to speed, so to speak, perhaps with incorporating some new elements along the way. As a special release for fans to enjoy who might seek it out, the 7″ gets that message across well and revives some of the momentum Asteroid had coming off of II ahead of the potential III, which, the sooner it gets here, the better.Asteroid, Asteroid Move a Mountain, Small Stone Records, Sweden, Örebro