To date, they’re not revolutionaries or anything like that, but I like Swedish four-piece Mamont. I dug their EP well enough, but with the cumbersomely-titled 2012 debut full-length, Passing through the Mastery Door(review here), it was easy to hear they were beginning a process of coming into their own, and that sensibility I almost always find exciting in an album. The band, based in Nyköping and Stockholm and previously interviewed here, seem bent on doing the work of a genuine creative progression — both in their songwriting and in terms of putting in time on the road — and in their new video for the track “Stonehill Universe,” they show that even a simple performance clip of a group in a room (or two) still has space to show a bit of individuality. I’m not the betting type, but I’m looking forward to hearing what Mamont do next, and this is fun in the meantime.
Posted in Reviews on January 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been two years since Stockholm heavyweights New Keepers of the Water Towers released their sophomore full-length, The Calydonian Hunt, through MeteorCity, and that span of time has found them making a jump in more than just their label. Issued via Listenable Records, their third album, The Cosmic Child, finds New Keepers of the Water Towers a much more mature, more patient band, embarking on progressive psychedelic sprawl and incorporating acoustics alongside periods of the more expected weighted distortion. Tracks are by and large longer than either the second album (review here) or their Chronicles debut (review here), which compiled two self-released EPs into a 60-minute long-player rife with formative Mastodonic crush, and the three-turned-four-piece don’t shy away from including atmospheric interludes both within the songs and in the form of the closing title-track. All told, The Cosmic Child runs through six tracks in just under 47 minutes, and while there are times where it seems like New Keepers of the Water Towers have wandered beyond their capacity to restore structured order, there’s never actually a moment throughout where the songs get away from them, and the record winds up being as much of a success as it is a surprise, though those diametrically opposed to progressive indulgences will want to stay wary, as The Cosmic Child is full of them right from the beginning of opener “The Great Leveller,” which swirls to a march led by drummer Tor Sjödén and complemented by the guitars of Rasmus Booberg and Victor Berg (Björn Andersson has since joined on bass, but in this liner-noteless digital age, there’s no word on whether or not he’s actually playing on the album). “The Great Leveller” swells to a slow verse plod topped with melodic vocals and open, big-sounding guitar, gradually giving way to the chorus and a chugging rhythm playing out under a grandiose echoing, winding solo. The Mastodon feel isn’t completely gone from New Keepers’ sound – let’s not forget that they too “went prog” – but The Cosmic Child feels less outwardly concerned with showy technicality than it does with mood and atmosphere, “Visions of Death” setting a side-to-side sway in its guitar line that rests on a strong rhythmic foundation between the bassline and the drums.
There’s a current of excellent guitar leads throughout The Cosmic Child, and “Visions of Death” certainly has one in its midsection, but even these are never so over-the-top as to distract from the overall balance of the material, which rests between modern prog metal and heavy psychedelia. At nearly nine and a half minutes, “Visions of Death” presages much of what’s to come thematically from 12-plus-minute cuts like “Pyre for the Red Sage” (12:05) and “Lapse” (12:32), but each piece of the album has an identity of its own that simultaneously works to the benefit of the whole work. This is the best case scenario for a thematic, semi-narrative album, which The Cosmic Child purports to be (no lyric sheet with that download). Piano drives a transition between “Visions of Death” and the subsequent “Pyre for the Red Sage,” which opens with the same line and adds acoustic guitar for its introductory base. By the end of the first full minute, the song has unfolded its grandeur, but as big as it gets – it gets plenty big – there remains a grounding element in a catchy chorus and driving kick bass. Booberg, Berg and Sjödén all handle vocals reportedly, and on “Pyre for the Red Sage,” layers assure that as much largesse is carried across musically, it’s duly met with the singing. Before its halfway point, the track breaks to synth ambience and moves gradually, patiently, over its next couple minutes to post-Floydian prog metal, a thrashy riff running rhythm for a semi-shred solo that works because of the time spent getting to it. The guitar line that follows is one of the more memorable aspects of the song and indeed the album, and it’s met by far-off echoing vocals before a slowdown introduces the acoustics that will carry into “Cosmosis,” typified by a sweet vocal melody and rounding out with a darker electric guitar line that serves as a foreshadow to “Lapse,” the culmination of The Cosmic Child and New Keepers’ most ambitious single work to date.
Few rules in life I’d be willing to call absolute, but I think it’s safe to say that if you’re walking through the woods and you run into a dude in a creepy clown mask, your day just got a whole lot worse. It’s a lesson we should be teaching our children, really.
We last heard from heavy rocking Swedish foursome Ponamero Sundown in 2011 with the album, Radio Eléctrica (review here), a straightforward bit of Euro heavy brought to light by Transubstans Records. The clip you’ll find below, which splices the aforementioned PSA about forest clowns (also dudes in pig masks, we can’t forget them) with performance footage of the band, is for the song “The Dice” from that album, which Ponamero Sundown are due to follow up this year if they want to keep the two-year pace they established between their ’09 debut, Stonerized(review here) and the sophomore outing.
Those suffering coulrophobia may want to avoid, but everyone else, feel free to enjoy:
Posted in On the Radar on January 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Like many in the current crop of Swedish heavy bands, Stockholm-based Amaxa owe much of what they do directly to post-Sabbath early ’70s riffing, bands less given to outwardly stonerized lyrics or a focus on what would become doom. Organ shows up on their self-titled, self-released debut LP, but even when it picks up, “Shooting Star” is more psychedelic and thicker toned than you’d call what Deep Purple were doing at the time. They cite Mountain specifically and Swede-prog progenitors Kebnekajse, and I’m no one to argue, but it’s impossible to ignore the trailblazing bands like Graveyard, Witchcrat and Burning Saviours have done over the course of the last decade as well. Either way you look at it, Amaxa are playing off ideas that will be readily familiar to experienced listeners within the genre.
The band is comprised of guitarist Peter Pedersen, bassist Anders Broström, vocalist/organist Erik Broström and drummer Jimmy Halvarsson, and much of what might distinguish them among their peers in Sweden’s crowded retro set lies in the organ and how it’s used to play up prevailing psychedelics that come through alongside blues rock riffing and palpable tonal warmth while the production balances modern techniques and the already-stated retro aesthetic. Longest cut “Welcome in Sanity” meters out darker stomp, but even so keeps the pace moving centered around an undulating bassline from Anders and Jimmy‘s tense ride cymbal, both of which open wide in the chorus to the 6:19 track, which in turn has room in its second half for a sort of mini-freakout shuffle. At very least, Amaxa are schooled in the tenets of the sound they’re presenting on their first album.
Killer low-end is a regular feature throughout Amaxa‘s Amaxa, but “The Heartache of Philip Marlowe” belongs to Peter‘s guitar and to Jimmy‘s cowbell. Tonally, it’s some of the best fuzz Amaxa have on offer, and put to a start-stop groove in the verse that Erik matches in his vocals. The album ends with fitting swirl and some heretofore unheard melodic complexity, hinting of things to come maybe on future releases, and if nothing else, the fact that they self-released it and pressed to vinyl bodes well for a sense of professionalism to grow. Because apparently I have a Soundcloud account now and because Amaxa (also on Thee Facebooks here) posted the tracks there, here’s the full record:
Posted in Reviews on December 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Undeterred by the departure of bassist/vocalist Anders Steen after the release of their fifth album in 2009, Stockholm-based drone metallers Switchblade have pressed on as the duo of guitarist Johan Folkesson and drummer Tim Bertilsson, adopting the motto “less is more” and using the lack of a permanent third party to their advantage on the follow-up sixth outing — self-titled as all their releases have been since starting out — by inviting a slew of guests to join them on these recordings. For the ease of telling them apart, presumably so you don’t go, “Hey, did you hear Switchbladeby Switchblade?” and the other party answers, “Which one?” the band has subtitled their full-lengths with the year of release, and so with Switchblade  (released on Trust No One/Denovali), they mark a new era for the band.
To find a Switchblade song with a title other than its runtime or a number indicating its place in the tracklist, you’d have to go back all the way to Switchblade , released some three years after they got together, and Switchblade follows suit aesthetically with many of the sort of branded tenets the band has developed over the course of their decade and a half together, arriving in three extended movements each with its own defining progression and standout elements. The liner to the digipak CD breaks “Movement I” (14:34) down into “Grave I/Dissonance I/Coda I,” “Movement II” (10:48) into “Nocturne/Mezzo/Coda II” and “Movement III” (11:33) into “Grave II/Dissonance II/Elegy/Finale,” so the impression is of one larger, mostly instrumental work tied together by various musical themes. That turns out to be the case, but each of the three tracks still has something of its own to offer.
As regards the guest appearances, though it would seem to contradict the “less is more” ethic –actually being more than less — appearances from Katatonia vocalist Jonas Renkse, Kongh vocalist David Johansson, Terra Tenebrosa vocalist The Cuckoo and SpiritualBeggars keymaster Per Wiberg wind up shaping the atmosphere of Switchblade in a huge way, stacked though the vocals are into the second half of the 37-minute album. So too does a major contribution come from the engineering job of Karl Daniel Lidén (Vaka, ex-Greenleaf/DemonCleaner), whose open-air mic placement on Bertilsson‘s drums adds a dimension of space to the recording that’s utterly his own. Longstanding Katatonia aficionados will be interested to know that Renkse growls here rather than relies on the emotional clean approach he’s used in his band for over a decade now, leaving Johansson to a cleaner, semi-spoken incantation that comes on in layers in the back end of “Movement II” and The Cuckoo to return in “Movement III” after a bizarre appearance in the grooving second half of “Movement I.”
Perhaps even more than the vocals, though, Wiberg‘s contributions on organ — both when they’re there and when they’re not — set the tone and atmosphere of Switchblade . Folkesson and Bertilsson (who also runs Trust No One Recordings) affect doomed minimalism at its finest during the opening stretches of “Movement III,” but it’s the contrast and lack of Wiberg‘s presence where he had done so much to fill out the fast and slow components of “Movement II,” that really brings the starkness to bear. At 10:48, “Movement II” is also the shortest song Switchblade have had on an album since 2003, so it’s a change working on multiple levels. As “Movement III” picks up in its second half and the album sloths in the general direction of its apex, both vocals and organ join in to accompany, first from Renkse again — his throat sounding raw, inflamed and dry – then in a serious of gurgles and screams from The Cuckoo, who tops a final(e) slowdown in excruciating fashion as “Movement III” deteriorates. All the while, though, working alongside Folkesson‘s guitar, Wiberg is filling out the track in the low-end space a bassist might otherwise occupy.
Ultimately, it seems to be Switchblade‘s encompassing sense of musical adventure that has kept them from being hindered by Steen‘s absence. By bringing in outsiders to take part, they’ve made sure not to delve further into minimalism than intended, while still allowing for a feeling of space to be carried across during droning guitar section that precedes the bell-of-the-ride swing of “Movement I,” arguably as active instrumentally as they get here — and another instance in which Wiberg makes his impact felt — so that whatever sacrifice they’ve had to make, the sound of Switchblade winds up broader, not at all contracted. To put it on their terms, though I’d argue that they got there with more, not less as they posit, the end result is still more, not less. If it’s more is more or less is more, whatever. It’s more in the end, and if Switchblade are bent on making complex ideas and logistics seem simple, that can only help them as they commence refining the nascent duo approach they present here. 15 years on, a new beginning.
My motivations for posting this video for the song “Given is Given (Part 1)” from Swedish trio I are Droid‘s upcoming sophomore album, The Winter Wardare twofold. First, it’s fuzzy and Swedish, so it’s kind of a no-brainer that I’d put up a post about it anyway. That’s kind of my thing. Second, that dude in the middle up there reluctantly removing his hood is none other than guitarist/vocalist Peder Bergstrand, former and apparently once again frontman for Lowrider.
And with the announcement a couple weeks back that those seminal Swedish stoner mavens have reunited for a one-off at next year’s London Desertfest, yeah, you could say there’s an added level of interest there. In I are Droid, Bergstrand is joined by drummer Fredrik Okazaki Bergström and bassist Jens Lagergren. The Winter Ward is due out early in 2013 on Razzia Records, and sometime in the next couple weeks, I’ll be running an interview with Bergstrand about the Lowrider reunion, how it all came about, how it plays into working with I are Droid, and so on.
As it’s nice to have a little context for that kind of thing, here’s “Given is Given (Part 1).” Please enjoy:
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Word just came down the PR wire of Graveyard 2013 US tour dates. The band are not to be missed live, and I for one am looking forward to hearing how they bring their new album, Lights Out(review here), to life on stage.
See you in Philly:
GRAVEYARD: U.S. TOUR DATES ANNOUNCED!
FINALLY: People in the States can stop complaining about not having some real goddamned rock ‘n’ roll shows to go to. Plus, our neighbors to the north & south have good reason to grab their passports and head for their borders.
Rejoice Faithful Disciples of the Scuzz and Fuzz of Analog Sound for I say unto you that Sweden’s finest, GRAVEYARD, are coming back to headline in the U.S. to support their new album, Lights Out, due out in North America on November 6th!
Launching on January 23rd in Boston, Massachusetts, the tour will feature special appearances in Seattle, Washington and Houston, Texas from The Devil’s Blood and Royal Thunder.
Confirmed tour dates are:
01/23/13 Royal Boston – Boston, MA 01/24/13 Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA 01/25/13 Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY 01/26/13 Black Cat – Washington, D.C. 01/27/13 Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY 01/29/13 The Orange Peel – Asheville, NC 01/30/13 Exit/In – Nashville, TN 01/31/13 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA 02/01/13 The Hi-Tone Café – Memphis, TN 02/02/13 The Firebird – St. Louis, MO 02/04/13 The Shelter – Detroit, MI 02/05/13 Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL 02/06/13 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN 02/08/13 Larimer Lounge – Denver, CO 02/09/13 Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT 02/11/13 The A Club – Spokane, WA 02/12/13 Wonder Ballroom – Portland, OR 02/13/13 Neumos – Seattle, WA *featuring The Devil’s Blood and Royal Thunder* 02/15/13 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA 02/16/13 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA 02/17/13 El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA 02/18/13 The Casbah – San Diego, CA 02/19/13 The Crescent Ballroom – Phoenix, AZ 02/21/13 Emo’s East – Austin, TX 02/22/13 Granada Theater – Dallas, TX 02/23/13 Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX *featuring The Devil’s Blood and Royal Thunder*
Additional shows will be announced soon.
With legions of devoted fans, you’d best buy your tickets ASAP ‘cause these dates WILL sell out.
Posted in On the Radar on October 22nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Dually-fronted Swedish six-piece Mud Walk recorded their latest EP, The Drifter’s Forgotten Lore, in San Francisco earlier this year. Released by Ella Music Nation, it’s a five-track collection of unpretentious retro heavy rock, fervent in its groove and varied between the warm low-end vibing of “I’m Good When I Hear the Guns” and the unmitigated shuffle of “On the Loose,” which has enough early ’70s swagger in its execution to live up to its title. Put to tape at the US Women’s Audio Mission, it’s a thickened garage stomper with bluesy thrust and soulful vocals vying for prominence in a way that only adds to the excitement of the listen.
The Drifter’s Forgotten Loreis Mud Walk‘s second EP behind 2011′s Barefoot Band, and is more than cohesive enough to make me wonder what the band might be able to do with a full-length release. Much of the focus inevitably is going to be on vocalists Johanna Bayard (also harmonica) and Anna-Stina Jungerstam — one can almost see the line forming to make mostly inaccurate comparisons to Heart circa Dreamboat Annie — but on opener “Alaska” (also the longest track at 4:47; points), guitarists Stina Årman-Assargård and Liv Platzer lack nothing for presence or prominence, and throughout the release, the double-Jonna rhythm section of bassist/backing vocalist Jonna Wikblad and drummer Jonna Karlsson consistently provide the foundation that keeps it all together.
To wit, “Sole Times” seems to be a moodier waltz at first, with vocals further back in their analog echo, adding to the psychedelic vibing, but in the final third, Wikblad underscores a start-stop riff with some classic funk and the sense of movement so prevalent throughout The Drifter’s Forgotten Loreis revived. Likewise, though Bayard‘s harmonica features heavily in the 2:50 closer, “Hounded,” it’s the rolling groove that emerges near the halfway point that makes the track such a landmark to end the EP. It’s a strong release from a young band with a firm handle on their aesthetic, more fully produced than the first, but still natural-sounding, and however much bell-bottomed worship seems to emerge from Sweden, acts like Mud Walk seem to be able to maintain their own spin on the style even as they affirm the tropes of the burgeoning subgenre.
The EP is available now from Ella Music Nation — I don’t have Spotify, but apparently Mud Walk is on Spotify — and they’re on Thee Facebooks and Twitter as well. The EP isn’t streaming publicly anywhere to the best of my knowledge, so here’s the video for the title-track to Barefoot Band, which should still give some idea of what Mud Walk are all about.
Swedish fuzz merchants Mamont know what they like. Their debut Ozium Records full-length, Passing through the Mastery Door(review here) is a collection of thickened stonerly grooves and heavy rocking jams, casting off the retro feel of the EP they recorded last year (review here) to take on a more modern style. It’s a time-tested formula, but the band use it to their advantage throughout the album’s eight tracks, chopping up familiar elements to recombine them into the massive stomp of “Mammuten” or the classic psychedelic quirk of “Stonehill Universe.”
The “new” recording aesthetic suits them well. The guitars of Karl Adolfsson and Jonathan Wårdsäter lead throughout with heavily Muff’ed distortion, bassist Victor Wårdsäter and drummer Jimmy Karlsson holding together the fuzzy expanses the music seems to be describing. They’re not quite through the mastery door yet in terms of settling the issue of their approach for once and all and thus halting creative growth — though the album is remarkably cohesive — but if the second-half jam of “The Secret of the Owl” is anything to go by, they’re enjoying the process of getting there up to this point.
With birdsong scattered throughout Passing through the Mastery Door, in the intro to the album at the beginning of “Mammuten” or before the penultimate interlude “Woods” takes hold with its sweet-sounding, acoustic-based serenity, Mamont offer a natural feel and never veer from that course throughout the record’s 42 minutes. Because this laid back vibe is pervasive, it’s easy to see them as aligned somewhat to the jammed-out sphere of modern European heavy psych, but Mamont are more straightforward in their songwriting and more traditionally stoner in their scope to really make that the case. In concept and execution, they stand out.
And in part, it was because of that that I hit up Karlsson with Six Dumb Questions, which he was kind enough to field with the answers below:
1. Tell me about the writing process for Passing through the Mastery Door. Was there something specific you wanted to do differently after the EP? It seems like the album came together pretty quickly. When were the songs written?
The plan was to first do a new EP with some songs that we had written last year. We liked the retro feeling on the old one, but we had started to experiment more with fuzz and wanted the next recording to have a more tone of stoner.
Then Ozium Records contacted us and wanted to sign the band. We said “fuck yeah” and started directly to discuss a full album. We didn’t have so much time to rehearse because I am studying in Stockholm (one hour from our hometown Nyköping), and we also had a lot of shows in the weekends.
Everyone seems to think that our old EP was released this year, but we recorded it 2011. It just got known to people outside Sweden earlier this year.
I came to live in Nyköping again in June and we had less than two weeks to prepare the album before we hit the studio. Three of the songs (“Creatures,” “Stonehill Universe” and “The Secret of the Owl”) were older ones that we have played a lot. The rest of the album was in fact done under these two weeks.
We then had one very intense week in Deep Blue Studios in Nyköping, the same studio where the EP was recorded. The song “Woods” is actually just the result of a jam in the studio. We wanted the album to land for a while, to then give you a punch in the face with “Satans Fasoner” (directly translated to Satan’s manners and means damn manners).
It was a bit of surreal feeling when the Swedish Armed Force had exercises in the area around the studio that week. Armed soldiers and tanks everywhere, and it was a hell of a job to record the beautiful birdsong we have on the album, because of the fucking helicopters.
2. One of the most striking differences between the EP and the full-length to me is the tone and how much thicker the album sounds. Was this done on purpose? What do you feel like a thicker tone gives to the band?
Yes, it was really on purpose. The three songs on the EP don’t have the heavy weight we want. And they’re much more stoner and heavy live. When we started the band the idea was to raise a creature that would become a big fucking runaway mammoth. The tone of the new album was set seconds after the song “Mammuten” (the mammoth) was written.
But we also really wanted to have the retro feeling and some psychedelic elements left. I think we have a good balance between the 70’s retro rock and the 90’s heavy stoner. A mix of everything we love.
3. I know the line is taken from the track “Stonehill Universe,” but what was behind choosing Passing through the Mastery Door for the album’s title? Was there something particular about that line or that song that stuck out in your minds?
That’s right. When we sat in the rehearse room Karl suddenly wrote the line on the over scribbled whiteboard. We looked at it and loved it. The album is a story and a journey, when you listen to it you choose to pass through the door. What then happens no one can know for sure. “Stonehill Universe” is the oldest song on the album and its lyrics and message reflect the entire album, the mastery door.
4. Sweden has a long history of so many great bands. Are there any Swedish artists who inspire what you do in Mamont? What is the heavy rock culture or scene like in Stockholm for a band like Mamont, releasing your first album? How has the response been to the band live?
A hell of a lot good Swedish bands inspire Mamont. Sometimes we feel very lucky to live in this small country that’s overfilled with really great bands. They’re everywhere and it’s awesome to get the privilege to play and get to know them.
Our influences come from both Swedish ‘70s prog rock and more modern stoner rock. Mamont is like a mix of the legendary band November and today’s Truckfighters. It’s a good description I think, if you want it on paper.
The heavy rock scene is really boiling right know in Sweden. In just a couple of years the stoner scene has grown as hell and a lot of underground bands have started to build up a wonderful family feeling with each other. The first album couldn’t come out in a better time. There’s a large wave of sand washing over right know and we’re on it. And yes, it’s sand. We played in a huge sandpit this summer. KrökbackenFestival was arranged by some dudes from Mushroom Caravan Overdrive. That place had a magical feeling and so much great underground bands. It really showed the face and future of the great Swedish heavy rock scene.
We have played the songs on the album live this summer and fall and the response has been fantastic. We’re from the small town Nyköping but we hope that we have built up a good reputation in Stockholm. The release party showed proof on that when it was packed full with a long queue outside the entire night.
5. There are a few shows coming up this month and in November/December, but will Mamont tour outside of Sweden to support the album? Are there any other gigs in the works maybe for 2013?
We have played really much recently and are now working on getting more gigs. Unfortunately we don’t have any shows planned for 2013, yet. We want to play as much as possible but right now we only can support the album live in Scandinavia.
But a discussion about touring Europe is going on right now. That’s our goal and we hope it will be true next summer or fall.
6. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
For the people that hate the CD format, we have some good news coming up.
Posted in Features on June 8th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
One faces the prospect of a “final” Candlemass album as one might face a gallows, and yet, it’s hard to imagine bassist, founder and principle songwriter Leif Edling would have it any other way. For nigh on 30 frickin’ years, Candlemass has produced some of the genre’s most essential doom, whether it was helping to pave the way for Sabbathian traditionalism on their 1986 debut, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, infusing a sense of majesty onto 1989′s Tales of Creation, or returning to reclaim their thorned throne with 2005′s Candlemass reunion outing.
That’s a pretty long gap, 1989 to 2005, and that goes to show that if time has been anything to Candlemass, it’s been turbulent. They changed frontmen after Epicus, bringing Messiah Marcolin in to replace session vocalist Johan Längquist — with whom they’d later reunite for a special 25th anniversary set at Roadburn in 2011 delayed a year by, what else, a volcano — and ’90s era offerings like Chapter VI (1992), Dactylis Glomerata (1998) and From the 13th Sun (1999) never managed to capture quite the same spirit as their counterparts of the 1980s. Candlemass broke up in the mid-’90s while Edling pursued his Abstrakt Algebra project, and despite a few live releases and compilations that followed From the 13th Sun, it wouldn’t be until 2005 that the band really got its footing back.
Even when they did, the tumult continued. Marcolin — thought by many to be an essential component in the band’s sound — was unceremoniously removed from the picture as the band made ready to follow-up the self-titled, and Texas native Robert Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus was brought in as his replacement. The resulting King of the Grey Islands (2007) was a triumph, and 2009′s Death Magic Doom found Candlemass touring the US for the first time in more than two decades, but it was also their last album for Nuclear Blast. Shortly after it was announced they’d signed to Napalm Records, word followed that Psalms for the Dead (released today, June 8, and reviewed here) would be the last Candlemass record.
And even that wasn’t the end of the drama. Last Saturday, June 2, the band broke the news that Lowe, in turn, was out of Candlemass, would be replaced for all subsequent tours by Mats Levén — who nearly took the spot in the wake of the fallout with Marcolin and who also sings for Edling‘s ongoing second band, Krux — and that Hammond organist Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth, Spiritual Beggars) would also be joining for live shows. So, if nothing else, Candlemass earns plenty of points for consistency.
The interview that follows took place May 17, on what was announced as the only press day Edling would be doing for the album, so the Lowe situation had yet to unfold, but the discussion did turn to the band’s development with the singer over the course of his three LPs with them, what went into the decision to have Psalms for the Dead be their last record, who’s doing the voiceover on closer “Black as Time,” just what inspired “Dancing in the Temple (Of the Mad Queen Bee),” their Roadburn set with Längquist, his plans for when the band is done, a recent run-in with counterfeit Sabbath memorabilia, and more.
You’ll find the complete Q&A here after the jump. Please enjoy.
I could go through some big longwinded explanation and say I bought Abramis Brama‘s 2005 fourth album, Rubicon, because I think it’s important or has some measure of standing in the lore of Swedish heavy and/or classic rock, but fuck it. I bought this record because I wanted to hear it and that’s the story. I’d seen a couple things kicking around saying it’s the way to go as regards the Stockholm homage-payers, and I figured it was high time I picked up the album and gave it a real shot.
It’s not my first experience with the four- and apparently sometimes five-piece. I’ve written about them a few times here, including a review of their last album, 2009′s Smakar Söndag, which I dug a lot. They’re one of what seems to not be that many Swedish acts who refuse to sing in English, and though I speak literally no Swedish, I still have to admire the ethic. They compromised on it just once, but even the title of Nothing Changes — the 2003 English-language sidestep predecessor of Rubicon — seems to throw a middle finger up at the very idea of changing their approach. Some stubbornness is awesome, and with Rubicon, Abramis Brama went back to their mother tongue with a vengeance.
By the way, I’m assuming that along with Swedish their mother tongue is “riff,” because as much as they speak one language, they certainly also speak the other. Rubicon is about as genuine a modern interpretation of classic heavy rock as I’ve ever heard come out of Sweden,Abramis Brama having clearly honed their craft in the first eight years of their existence (they formed in ’97 and debuted with 1999′s Dansa Tokjävelns Vals) to a point where they could expand comfortably and put their own stamp on the form. I’m sure I won’t be the first to compare Ulf Torkelsson‘s vocals to Chris Cornell, but whether it’s the prog ending of “Guldgruva” or the pure “Dazed and Confused”-style chorus of the nine-minute “För Mitt Blödande Hjärta,” Torkelsson gives an absolutely killer showing. Pipes for days, it seems.
Speaking of “För Mitt Blödande Hjärta,” though, I had a head-turning moment when that chorus kicked in and immediately went back to Graveyard‘s “The Siren” from Hisingen Blues, which seems to have adapted pretty much the same progression to suit its own ’70s-worshiping purposes. Cool to hear something Abramis Brama were doing more than half a decade beforehand and give another context to the work of their countrymen, but really, the highlight of Rubicon isn’t comparing it to what’s come before or after, it’s enjoying its open, natural grooves on their own level. The more I listen to Abramis Brama and the more of their albums I hear — I’m coming for you, När Tystnaden Lagt Sig… — the more I appreciate what they’re doing both ethically and musically. The refusal to compromise coupled with the righteously formidable riffing of Per-Olf Andersson, the bass of Dennis Berg and Fredrik Jansson‘s drums on Rubicon are like a dogwhistle signalling a love of heavy rock. I can hear it, I can dig it, whatever language Torkelsson is speaking.
So mark Rubicon down among the slew of killer records I’ve picked up and wanted to recommend to anyone who might be open to such a recommendation. Their obvious love of the classics speaks for itself when you listen, so I’m going to leave it at that and put on the especially killer “Drottning Av Is” instead. Hope you dig it:
Posted in audiObelisk on April 19th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you didn’t get to hear Barr‘s 2008 debut LP, Skogsbo is the Place, it was one of that year’s subdued highlights (general appreciation here), full of beautiful and sweetly melancholic acid folk, driven by a less postured than “neo-pagan” worship of nature and all things organic, but still mostly about the songs themselves and what melodies and harmonies can accomplish in a setting thoroughly human. The sophomore outing, Atlantic Ocean Blues, arrives next week (04/25) courtesy of Sakuntala Records, an imprint of Transubstans.
Recorded in the band’s native Sweden, Atlantic Ocean Blues is no less pastoral than was its predecessor. Rather, the six-piece band adds more to the psychedelic aspects of their sound, so that opener “The End of the Road” and closer “Hanoi Haze” envelop the traditional songwriting between them in an early-’70s sepia of bright hopefulness. Among the most curious of the album’s tracks is “He ain’t a Friend, He’s a Brother,” which it just so happens was also included on Skogsbo is the Place.
And really, the reason I asked to be able to stream “He ain’t a Friend, He’s a Brother” over any of the other tracks on Atlantic Ocean Blues is because, for anyone who heard the first record, it makes for a firm summary of the changes in sound from that LP to this one. That said, even if you didn’t hear Barr‘s debut, the song has an appeal outside of the curiosity of its being a remake, and that lies in its gorgeous melody and lushness of feel.
Whether or not you’ve heard it before, I certainly hope you enjoy the track in its new form on the player below:
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Barr‘s Atlantic Ocean Blues will be available on Sakuntala starting April 25, 2012. For more info or to pre-order the album, click here. Patrik Andersson (guitar/vocals) sent along the following input on remaking the song:
The idea behind bringing along “He Ain’t A Friend…” is that we reworked it when we started trying out the new sound in the rehearsal space. We listened to all of these Senegalese and Nigerian psych compilations from the ’70s and tons of Tinariwen and wanted to aim for a more primitive rock sound, like a nomad-blues kind of sound, and as soon as I started playing the originally rather complex guitar figure in that song — you know, it’s played on an oddly-tuned six-string acoustic — with only two tones — we where there. We got into the most effective groove and felt that it was simply was too good not to be recorded for the next album. We also wanted to feature an Arabic-style psych solo with tons of space echo in order to bring the listener further out in the desert moonlight, and worked on that one for many days. Personally, the song is very dear to me, since the lyric’s about a family member gone haywire. So it all made sense. Hope you dig it!
Posted in audiObelisk on March 29th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Who’s afraid of a little pop?
Certainly not Stockholm heavy rockers Hong Faux, who make their vinyl full-length debut with the self-released The Crown that Wears the Head. I think it’s well established by now that I’m a sucker for a well-written hook — all the more if it comes from Sweden — and The Crown that Wears the Head is full of them, working in a deceptively broad stylistic base and nonetheless maintaining a consistency of songwriting throughout the record’s eight tracks. The album is warm and modern, and by the time you’ve made the jump from upbeat opener “Present Tense-less” to the more thickly-grooved “Bad City Blues,” Hong Faux exact a flow so smooth it’s easy to lose track of just how far you’ve come.
Guitarist Nik Seren and bassist BQ share vocal duties, making Graveyard-esque lyrical references to Danzig (on closer “Sparrow Hills”) and skillfully infusing classic late-’60s psychedelia into the verses of “Pearlgarden.” Guitarist Björn and drummer Daniel round out the lineup, the former adding wah-driven classic rock lead work to the back half of “Jack of Clubs” while the drums prove able to adapt to whatever the riffs or pacing might bring. Earlier single “Feign Death to Stay Alive” delivers the title line, and throughout its 33-minute run, The Crown that Wears the Head provides solid heavy rock without pretense or upset to its forward push.
The LP version of the album is available for pre-order through Hong Faux‘s page on Bandcamp, and since I dug their demo and this vinyl, I wanted to offer to stream the tracks from The Crown that Wears the Head so you can hear them for yourself. With design work from Mat Bethancourt (formerly of Josiah, currently of Cherry Choke), it’s a complete package of immediately memorable tunes I thought might be worth checking out.
So please, dig in:
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For more info on Hong Faux, visit their website or hit them up on Thee Facebooks. The Crown that Wears the Head was recorded in Stockholm by the band and Fredrik Moberg at Bad Boar Studios and Green Room Studios. To preorder the vinyl from their Bandcamp page, click here.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 7th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well, they’re from Sweden, and they rock, so I guess they have my vote. It doesn’t take much time to head over to the link below and cast a quick vote for Ponamero Sundown — whose Rodeo Eléctrica album was released earlier this year — to play the Sweden Rock fest, so I figured I’d post the news in case anyone has a spare second and a half to help out.
Great news from PonameroSundown camp! The band has been picked out for an ongoing competition to play at Sweden Rock Festival next June. The three bands who get the most votes get to play at the festival and PonameroSundown are among the 100 out of 1500 who got picked! Now we need your help in order to get this awesome stonerfuzz rock expedition spreads the riffage at the festival. The link where you can submit your votes is below, anyone can vote once a day, no registration needed. Thanks!
Posted in Reviews on November 1st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
After a few initial listens, the core contrast of Mortui Vivos Docent – the Night Tripper Records debut album from Swedish heavy/doom rockers Obrero – begins to sink in. It’s the vocals. Even before doing any research at all on the band or its personnel, there was something about them that seemed pulled right out of classic metal, right out of the thrash era. It wasn’t until I went so far as to (gasp!) read the liner notes that I discovered the man behind the mic in Obrero is Martin Missy of the once-and-apparently-again German thrash unit Protector. In Obrero, he partners with guitarists Fredrik Pihlström and Mathias Öjermark (the latter also the occasional keys), bassist Magnus Karkea and drummer Calle Sjöström — who would all seem to be the Stockholm contingent in the band, if names are anything to go by – to nestle the sound of Mortui Vivos Docent somewhere between Euro-style stoner metal and doom. If the band represents a side-project for Missy from the reactivated Protector, he’s not the only one; everyone in the band either was or is active in the thrash or speed metal genres. Karkea and Sjöström are both members of Talion, as are Missy and Pihlström, who’s also been in Melting Flesh and Bloodbanner, among others. The only member of Obrero not also found in Talion’s lineup is Öjermark, who was both in Melting Flesh with Pihlström and an outfit called Ruins of Time with Missy, so everyone’s connected here multiple times over, all seem to be familiar with each other’s playing – Obrero’s relative ease of execution backs that theory – and all are stepping outside of the styles in which they’ve made a home to explore new ground.
They’re not the first from thrash to do so (at times Obrero reminds of a less directly blues-derived version of The Cursed, which featured vocalist Bobby Blitz of OverKill and Hades’ Dan Lorenzo), but one of the factors that most stands Mortui Vivos Docent out among the throng of heavy rock and doom out there is how seamlessly it blends the two. Where “Svantovit” – particularly in Sjöström’s drums, but also in the guitar – reminds at first of something Kyuss might have done in their middle period, it soon moves into Trouble-styled classic guitar-led doom, the synth from Öjermark adding class and melody behind Missy’s mostly-rhythmic verse, which follows the guitar line well in metallic tradition. That song is among the high points of Mortui Vivos Docent (which translates from the Latin to “The Dead Teach the Living”), but it has plenty of company in its quality level. The center portion of the album’s total eight tracks finds one of its smoothest transitions in that between the riffy “The Fourth Earl” and the darker, more doom-derived “Octaman.” Both songs are led by Pihlström and Öjermark with Karkea and Sjöström underscoring the groove in the rhythm section, but they take different approaches, showing more stylistic diversity between them than, say, the earlier “Son of Tutankhamun,” which seemed to take the time to meld the two styles into one song. Both approaches are valid on their own – either combining doom and stoner rock or keeping them separate – but by utilizing both methods, Obrero show they are not only well versed in their genre, but in songwriting too, which ultimately is going to help them more than any amount of fandom or intricacy of influence could.