The Latin title of Swedish classic heavy rockers The Tower‘s full-length debut, Hic Abundant Leones, translates to “here are many lions.” A warning. Likewise, one might take a listen to the three-minute track “Exile” from The Tower‘s first outing for Bad Omen (North American distro via Prosthetic) and take it as a sign of what the record itself has in store. Just as a lion isn’t the only thing that can kill you in the jungle, so too does Hic Abundant Leones have a deceptively multi-pronged attack, and while “Exile” gives a solid demonstration of the Uppsala four-piece’s retro vibes and penchant for lyrical references — you’ll note appearances from The Doormouse and Queen of Hearts, à la both Jefferson Airplane and Alice in Wonderland — it’s by no means a complete overview of the album’s nine-track/48-minute span.
Immediate comparisons to Graveyard will be made for “Exile,” thanks in part to the bluesy vocal cadences of frontman Erik, but The Tower are more push than boogie, ultimately, and as cuts like “Lucy,” “Moonstoned” and the closing eponymous cut “The Tower” range past six minutes each — the latter clocking in at 11:41 to serve as the longest on Hic Abundant Leones and a companion piece to the Beatles-references in “Lucy” — the band seem to be pushing against such convenient assignations. Still, with their warmth of tone and natural, live-sounding spaciousness, the guitars of August, bass of Viktor and drums of Tommie, not to mention the nods in the lyrics to Baby Boomer greats, Hic Abundant Leones puts forth a heavy ’70s loyalism that comes through on just about every level of their presentation.
They not only acknowledge this in the songs themselves, but even unto their bio, which follows a timeline beginning in 1938 and carrying the band through the ’70s and into 2012, when they reportedly emerged following rumors of the end of the world with — what else? — the demo that led to this album. Good times.
Hic Abundant Leones is due out April 15 on Bad Omen Records. Preorders are available now. More info from the aforementioned bio follows the premiere of “Exile” below.
The Tower, “Exile”
“It was back in 1938 that the brothers Erik and August and their friend Viktor migrated south. They left the small village in the northern forests where they grew up for the big city and the university, to study the science of harvesting the earth. On the fields beside the burial mounds in old Uppsala they met Tommie, a Soviet refugee. He showed them his sole possession, a blues vinyl from 5300 BC, suspecting that it would fit their melancholy northern souls. The four sat down in a barn and played a blues jam which lasted until 1945, when the war ended and the post-apocalyptic nuclear winter began…”
So begins the extraordinary tale of Swedish ‘bad luck boogie’ combo THETOWER, whose cryptic, swinging timewarp of a debut LP is now released via London’s Bad Omen Records. The offbeat freakbeat and phantasmagorical psych-blues of Hic Abundant Leones exude an ageless charm and resounding singularity, striking eerie, dreamlike atmospheres that seemingly confirm THE TOWER’s eccentric parallel-universe narrative.
Sorting facts from the fantasy of the band’s complex mythology proves onerous; the quartet bonded during “long, all-night rehearsals in an old vicarage outside of Uppsala” and “began as some kind of personal quest for us but once we realised that we had a gospel we started preaching it. It is not something new. It is as ancient as the Sumerian blues records played by the Dionysos cults of the Postapocalyptic Era. Moreover, there have always been prophets of this gospel: wrayed Indians, electric shamans, crazy horses, black skinheads, exhumed singers, diddlying sheriffs, mean lick hookers, third eye girls, many a stooge, all-man brothers, Birmingham attendants of the Sabbath, and many, many more.”
Allegedly splitting in the 70s, they returned to the Tower in 1983, where they remained until 2012 - “when rumours of the end of the world enticed them to leave”. They recorded a demo (soon pressed to 12″ by Dybbuk Records) before cutting this mystical long-player. “The days in the studio were smooth. The loveable Joona Hassinen, who we recorded with, made us feel very comfortable, as if we were rehearsing in our ‘tower room’.”
And what is the significance of that peculiar title? “We saw it written on an ancient map of the (then known) world. It literally means ‘here are lions in abundance’ and was used by the cartographer to designate a uncivilised, wild and dangerous territory. When applied to Northern Scandinavia it becomes very weird, because there are no lions here, but this only furthers the poetry by making the lions mythical. The record is such a territory. So is the place where we rehearse. And stages we play on, and the vistas of our minds, the future and the past; the unknowns we want to explore and yet, paradoxically, also the regions where we feel the most at home.”