Self-released in a glossy digipak, the two-song Emersion full-length from Finnish four-piece Sons of Kings revels in expansive heavy psychedelic jamming that – while there’s little groundbreaking about it on the surface – effectively conveys some of the finest elements in modern European psych and distinguishes itself through emergent musical personality. Washes of ambient guitar would seem to align the instrumental release, which is Sons of Kings’ second behind a 2010 self-titled, with the likes of Red Sparowes and others in the realm of post-Isis explorations, but that’s hardly the crux of what the band have on offer. Both “Ancestry” (18:30) and “Inheritor Fumes” (17:30) delight in mellotron, extra percussion and layered interplay, still leaving room in the second half of the latter track for a soundscaping build that’s ambient and evocative enough to be legitimately cinematic. That section is about as un-jammed as Sons of Kings (who just happen to be named after my favorite The Hidden Hand song) get, even after Samu Montonen’s drums kick back in and J.P. Saari tops the ending progression with a surprisingly bluesy solo, and in that, the opening sequence of “Ancestry” is echoed, as Emersion begins with similar soundscaping, albeit shorter as the drums, guitar and bass fade up amid the bed of synth. The band boasts two bassists – Ville Virtanen and Juuso Jalava – but neither jam is overdone in terms of low end. Likely this is due to the level of exploration or perhaps even the number of strings Jalava is working with (reportedly six, unless I’ve read the bio incorrectly), but in any case, the considerable addition of synth and other effects acts as a balance among all the instruments. In the vein of a more spaced-out early My Sleeping Karma, but perhaps with some less Eastern inflection, Sons of Kings put themselves in a position to be heavy psych forerunners of the European north, and the natural sense of improvisation they bring to “Ancestry” and “Inheritor Fumes” speaks to a focus on live performance that lies at the core of the band. They’re jammers. They jam.
The album is interesting to think of in terms of lineage as a thematic. That is, even unto their name (the reference notwithstanding), Sons of Kings are bringing out an idea of familial rite – the son of a king inherits a kingdom. So too do “Ancestry” and “Inheritor Fumes” play into a notion of past/passed relatives, the latter with not so much the kind of reverence as the band’s moniker as much as an underlying cynicism; inheriting fumes implies either that you stink, you get nothing, or both. Without lyrics or some other form of manifesto in the digipak, it’s harder to really know what Sons of Kings are driving at with these ideas – and how the title Emersion factors in; could be the idea of arising out of both the past itself and the nuclear culture of one’s own family – but it may be that the theme isn’t fully developed or that I’m just not seeing it. In either case, the music makes fitting complement to such musings, meandering wisps of guitar/bass trails sustained and given ground by Montonen’s deft cymbal work and a flowing stream of low end. Smoke on the water, if you want an image for it. In its latter moments, “Ancestry” rounds out with ample tonal sweetness, the guitar and bass ringing out while the mellotron takes up as almost part of the rhythm section in being a cohesive element after about 16 minutes in, its melody also serving to tie the piece together. I don’t know who’s playing it, but whichever member it is, their contributions make Sons of Kings’ sound all the richer, giving Emersion an individual feel that even plays into the themes of inheritance and ancestry noted above – the mellotron is at this point an inherently classic sound, meant to invoke or state an allegiance with classic heavy or progressive rock. As “Inheritor Fumes” gets underway with room echoes in spaced out guitar notes and more active drumming, Sons of Kings seem to be delighting in the moment, making it up as they go along and relying on what proves to be an engaging chemistry between the players to convey contemplation in motion and a subtly driving build.