Siena Root, Kaleidoscope (2006)
If you’ve ever listened to Siena Root and not immediately wanted to purchase everything they’ve ever put out, I dare say you weren’t paying close enough attention. The longish-running classic heavy rockers have had enough people come in and out of their lineup over the years to populate a small village in their native Sweden, but they never fair to bring something special to their output.
Starting their first album, 2004’s A New Day Dawning, onward, they’ve stayed true one way or another to ’70s heavy vibes, but they were among a few early adopters when it comes to the current wave of boogie rock, even in Sweden, and their first four albums — A New Day Dawning, 2006’s Kaleidoscope, 2008’s Far from the Sun and 2009’s Different Realities (discussed here) — stood out all the more not only for the vintage feel, but for the fullness of their arrangements. Working with labels like Nasoni Records and Transubstans Records, Siena Root freely explored blends of organ, percussion, Rhodes, Mellotron, vocal changes, and sitar — the last of those provided by multi-instrumentalist KG West, who would play an increasing role in shaping the band’s sound over those four outings.
On Kaleidoscope, the group set a pivotal forward motion, and at the winding-down of the CD era, they purposefully built a two-sided, 51-minute offering of primo naturalist groove. The lineup of vocalist Sanya, vocalist/organist Oskar Lundström, lead vocalist/guitarist Sartez Faraj, West on guitar, organ, sitar, Rhodes, and mellotron, bassist/percussionist/vocalist Sam Riffer, and drummer/percussionist Love Forsberg, brought together a bluesy spirit that turned out to be as prescient of what was to come from Sweden and of course the broader European sphere of heavy rock as it was backward-looking to the heavy acts of yore. Anchored by Riffer and Forsberg in the rhythm section, opener “Good and Bad” moved from catchy shuffle into a hazy spaciousness with a certified-organic jam that seemed to be taking its cues via what-would-Ritchie–Blackmore-do and then built its way back gloriously to the place from whence it came in an eight-minute show of mastery that let listeners know immediately they were in for a killer trip.
From there, side A played to more straightforward and bluesier spirit in “Nightstalker” and “Blues 276,” bringing Sanya‘s soulful delivery forward on the former amid backing organ and sleekly bouncing the low end in the latter in a loose, gorgeously- and clean-toned jammer, efficient at 3:43 but with enough swing for a song of three times the length. It was on the subsequent “Bhairavi Dhun” that West‘s sitar took the lead position, and though the nine-minute track eventually welcomed in wah-soaked bass, drums and flute, the delve into Indian-influenced composition remained a bold and striking turn for Kaleidoscope to take, becoming one of the central impressions left behind when it was over. Siena Root already stood out from what was then a much smaller pack — recall Graveyard wouldn’t have their first record out until 2007 (also on Transubstans) — but the Subcontinental stylization of “Bhairavi Dhun” absolutely put Kaleidoscope over the top.
And they still had half the record to go! The initially minimalist drift-into-jam of “Crossing the Stratosphere,” low-end foreboding into a resuming of the more straight-ahead rock jamming of “Nightstalker” or “Blues 276,” would lead directly into “There and back Again,” marked out by its Purple-hued organ and bass fluidity, and the rumble at the end of “There and back Again” once more set the stage for the full-boogie of the six-minute “Ridin’ Slow,” which might’ve lived up to its name but for the energy with which it was delivered. Another stellar vocal from Sanya, another stellar bassline from Riffer, and another affirmation of jammy righteousness from Siena Root as a whole, “Ridin’ Slow” shifted into open-plucked guitar notes in its midsection in post-Zeppelin fashion, but kept a progressive edge thanks to the Mellotron and vocal effects before moving back into more vibrant push, which is how it ended, making its way out still grooving on a long fade.
As for 11-minute finale “Reverberations,” it would have its work cut out for it in summarizing the suitably multi-color Kaleidoscope as a whole, but a long, linear showing of instrumental chemistry said as much about what made this incarnation of Siena Root work so well as anything else could have. Flute — or flute sounds, anyway — and organ and guitar and bass and drums all came together with class and purpose, and while one might’ve appreciated a return of West‘s sitar layered in for symmetry’s sake with “Bhairavi Dhun,” the cacophony at which “Reverberations” arrived lacked nothing in terms of making its impact and closing Siena Root‘s second album on a delightfully immersive note.
Siena Root reissued a remastered version of Kaleidoscope — which is what you’re (hopefully) hearing above — through their own Root Rock Records imprint in 2015. After the blissfully conceptual Different Realities in 2009, it would be half a decade before they’d put out another studio album in 2014’s more modern-feeling Pioneers (discussed here), though their 2011 live record, aptly titled Root Jam (track stream here), felt like an appropriate celebration of their work in the meantime. Now comprised of Riffer, Forsberg, vocalist Samuel Björö, organist Erik Petersson and guitarist Matte Gustavsson, Siena Root are currently the process of mastering a new full-length, and, having had the extraordinary pleasure of seeing them live last fall at Høstsabbat in Norway (review here), it is a record to which I’m very much looking forward.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
Call me crazy, but by the time I saw the news last night that the aforementioned Graveyard are getting back together, my head was already spinning from the outright barrage of information this week. Monday and Tuesday, five-post days, but Wednesday was seven, yesterday was six and this post makes seven again for today, and that’s a lot for my poor, feeble brain to take.
I’m already behind on stuff for next week as well — it’s like everyone on the planet chose this week to release their new video — and it’s a busy one besides, but here’s a rundown of how it looks so far:
Mon.: Special post and XII Boar video.
Tue.: Evil Triplet track premiere and Strange Broue video.
Wed.: Shroud Eater premiere and Demon Head video.
Thu.: Hollow Leg premiere and Dot Legacy video.
Fri.: Stinking Lizaveta premiere and Black Mirrors video.
All this stuff is pretty much locked in, so that’s how I’m expecting it to shake out, but of course changes happen.
I’ll say a special thanks to everyone who liked, shared, commented on and helped build the Tomorrow’s Dream post to a point of being over the 200 mark. I especially appreciate the civil tone the comments took and the fact that people genuinely seemed interested in making it a more complete document rather than simply calling me out on things I missed. Thank you for that, and thank you as always for reading.
Do yourself and me a favor and have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.
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