Samavayo, Dakota: Crossing Lines (Plus Track Premiere)

samavayo dakota

[Click play above to stream Samavayo’s “Cross the Line” from Dakota. Album out May 6 via Setalight Records.]

Dakota is the fifth full-length from Berlin-based trio Samavayo, and it offers a distillation of hard and heavy rock, heavy psychedelia and Middle Eastern influences that results in a vibe not quite like anything else going. With seven songs and 45 minutes split up across two sides in an LP tradition, it offers a progressive complexity and clearheaded tonal push that even as it feels rooted in classic structures pushes beyond them with semi-metallic defiance. To look at the runtimes of the tracks, between five and seven minutes, roughly, there certainly would be space enough for variety in the material, but Samavayo bring together a diversity of influence beyond expectation and Dakota is that much richer as a a result.

Recorded at Big Snuff Studio by Richard Berhens (Heat, ex-Samsara Blues Experiment), it follows Samavayo‘s 2015 split with The Grand Astoria (review here), a 2014 split with One Possible Option, and their 2012 full-length, Soul Invictus, in presenting their forward-thinking crunch even as it marks the start of a new era for Samavayo, who work here as a trio for the first time on a long-player. That’s a significant change in dynamic, but in the end, Samavayo emerge from it with their identity intact, guitarist/vocalist Behrang Alavi leading the way on Persian-language opener “Arezooye Bahar,” a song with lyrics purportedly about freedom and arriving, of course, in the midst of Europe dealing with a migrant crisis.

That the decidedly Middle Eastern “Arezooye Bahar” should start off an album with the title Dakota — very American; taking its name from the native tribe, the word meaning “friend” or “ally” — from a band operating in the heart of Europe should give some sense of the melting pot scope of influence under which Alavi, bassist/vocalist/Moog-ist Andreas Voland and drummer/percussionist/vocalist Stephan Voland are operating. The tracks likewise are a cross-continental span of mood and resonance, “Arezooye Bahar” setting up the live-recorded feel that will ultimately tie seemingly disparate spirits together as the second-half apex of the opener gives way to the subsequent “Intergalactic,” the shortest track at 5:13 and among the most straightforward in its riff-led heaviness, all the more apparently so because it’s instrumental for its entirety, playing out like a more expansive Karma to Burn while serving to push the listener deeper into Dakota‘s broader context, full of thrust as much as emotional or social comment.

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“Kodokushi,” which follows, is the only other cut under the six-minute mark, and touches on some of the psychedelia that will show itself later, but keeps itself on a plotted course, taking in some of the Persian influence musically — think a less manic version of some of what Blaak Heat are getting up to these days, with more crunch — despite its English lyrics and offering one of Dakota‘s finest stretches of thrust as it moves toward its ending, Stephan getting the last word on toms as a transition into side A finale “Overrun” (premiered here), which also serves as the centerpiece of the album as a whole, rightly so for its added depth of melody, locked-in groove and the sense of command which Samavayo as a whole bring to it, shifting into a memorable and melodic chorus fluidly in the midsection before Alavi‘s wah-soaked lead and another run through the hook finish out.

There is not one song on side B that isn’t longer than everything on side A, but the three tracks on the back end of Dakota — “Dakota,” “Cross the Line” and “Iktsuarpok” — aren’t necessarily branching out beyond the point of recognition from what the likes of “Kodokushi” had to offer, even if they deepen the stylistic impact overall, the title-track adding percussion to the mix as it makes its way toward a sprinting riff-rock hook before opening to a chorus slowdown that makes an effective landmark and, as it’s repeated again at the end of the track, a suitable apex ahead of the drums-into-chug that starts “Cross the Line.” More of a swinging rhythm, but a lot of the underlying theme is the same, and when the full-toned hook kicks in, “Cross the Line” resonates with one of Dakota‘s most memorable impressions, shifting back through the verse and chorus again before spacing out a bit in the bridge and skillfully returning to the chorus to finish out, perhaps the best example here of Samavayo repurposing a classic structure to suit their own progressive purposes.

That sets up an admirable balance of intricacy and accessibility as the band makes their way into the airier opening of closer “Iktsuarpok” — from the Inuit; meaning a feeling of anticipation someone has that keeps them looking outside to see if someone is coming — which tips the balance again toward semi-psychedelia despite the earthy underpinnings of the bass and drums. I don’t know if it’s an added layer of guitar or what, but “Iktsuarpok” offers an even fuller sound than much of Dakota, and even as it chugs its way into a quiet (and momentary) break, it skillfully holds the tension that the prog metal grand finale will pay off, the last words, “You don’t know,” ringing out over a last crash of guitar, bass and drums. It’s as fitting a close as one could think of to an album so clearly intent on conveying a particular experience — of the melding of cultures, of emigrating, of seeking refuge — but perhaps most noteworthy of all, it is a fitting summary of all the things that make Samavayo who they are sonically, and it’s the clear expression of that which allows Dakota to work so engagingly as it does.

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Samavayo at Setalight Records

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2 Responses to “Samavayo, Dakota: Crossing Lines (Plus Track Premiere)”

  1. […] Samavayo, Dakota: Crossing Lines (Plus Track Premiere) […]

  2. Behrang says:

    In iktsuarpok it’s a moog that gives the additional punch to it :)

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