Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Sideburn - IV Monument (album review)

The cliche of the times is to lump every Swedish band into some mystical bag of retroness, typically some sound of the seventies seems to seep into the affair.  Whether fair or accurate or not, it is probably due to the reviewer's expectations of the country's musical exports that that label is constantly applied.  But doesn't some measure of seventies sound find it's way into every rock song in some form or other?  Relatively few bands actually try to emulate the sound of the seventies, for the most part, I think it just happens that way when bands opt for a stripped down / back to basics rock sound.  Which is what many bands were trying to do in the dawning days of the post-psychedelic era seventies in response to progressive tendencies and technical extravagances.

So with all that out of the way as a set up, let it be known right now that Sideburn is not one of those retro rock bands.  Sure, there's a vapor of seventies in the air as you'll find on any heavy guitar based album, but Sideburn is different.  There is some feeling of eighties and nineties as well, sure, but this is an individualistic band with an individualistic identity.  Their sound can almost be described as stripped down metal with absolutely devastatingly heavy guitar tone, used masterfully by Morgan Zocek and Jani Kataja, especially when played menacingly slow (see "Fire And Water").  When they play fast they are stone hard, high and tough, when they play it slow they are absolutely magmatic.

Bassist Martin Karlsson and drummer Fredrik Haake are not to be left out of the discussion either.  Karlsson's virtuosic performance and lively grooves are the true backbone of every song on the record and Haake performs out of his skull on all nine tracks, delivering quality beats with character every single time  out even while so much is asked of him in terms of the varied tempos and twists and turns in each of the compositions.

As the cliche crushers that they are, Zocek and Kataja don't simply do the heavy all day long.  They can wax poetic with the acoustic strings as well on "Silverwing" a midtempo hopper in the spirit of 'Zeppelin IV' or even some hidden gem off 'Splendor Solis' era Tea Party.  This song had a profound effect on me as it just brought me back to lazy days, younger days, days when we were free.  The whole album was like that really, and I think I know how that profound effect is achieved.  In a word, "effort".  Melodic vocals are not an afterthought, but a major contributor to the success of the album, songs like "The Saviour", "Tomorrows Dream" and title track "Monument" are testament to this.  This is what a talented singer (in the form of Kataja) can do for a band.  Variegated styles and guitar sounds also give this record the feel of a classic album.  Don't get me wrong, I go for records that have a consistent feel and sound, probably more than the next guy.  Sometimes bands try to punch outside their weight class and do too much on a single record.  That's simply not the case here.  Sideburn is an extremely talented group and they get the job done of crafting a dynamic album with many different shades and sounds.

This is truly a fantastic record.  Even the 'power ballad' of the record "Crossing The Lines" is excellent.  Typically, the slower songs are the ones I tune out but I see this one as a "sittin' on the porch in the spring time drinking a beer watching the sunset" kind of number, it's got a great feel.

At the end of the day, I'm really glad I got to know 'Sideburn IV - Monument'.  It's got moments of caterwauling hard rock, ballad-y songs that don't waste time and molten doom in the form of songs like "Fire and Water" and "The Last Day".  But more than that, being a child of the grunge / Pantera nineties who was raised on classic rock and metal there's something about this record that really speaks to me.  And that's not to contradict my opening spiel, this is not strictly a throwback record in terms of sound, the old references aren't slavishly reproduced, they are lovingly revitalized in a whole new light.

Highlights include: "Silverwing" and "Tomorrows Dream"

Rating: 4.5/5

1). Diamonds (6:04)
2). Fire and Water (6:09)
3). Tomorrows Dream (4:07)
4). Crossing The Lines (6:25)
5). The Last Day (7:05)
6). Silverwing (7:27)
7). The Saviour (6:52)
8). Bring Down The Rain (5:11)
9). Monument (7:44)
Total Run Time: 56:59

Morgan Zocek - Guitar, Background vocals
Jani Kataja - Lead vocals, Guitar
Martin Karlsson - Bass, Organ, Background vocals
Fredrik Haake - Drums, Percussion

From: Stockholm, Sweden

Genre: Rock, Metal, Traditional Doom, Stoner

Reminds me of: Black Label Society, Down, Grand Magus, Led Zeppelin, Mage, Mos Generator, Tea Party, Terra Firma

Release Date: October 3, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Springtime at dusk, crack a beer and rock out.

Better Reviews:
Stoner Hive
Cosmic Lava
Metal Kaoz

Sideburn on facebook


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