Monday, 4 March 2013

Amaxa - ST (album reviews)

While most bands that turn the clocks back to a bygone era settle in the seventies and the perceived hard rock purity of the era, Stockholm, Sweden quartet Amaxa continue winding until they've firmly planted one foot in the mid-sixties and filled the shoes of the psychedelic garage bands of the time.  There is a distinct seventies flavor to the affair however with opening cut "Final Escape" providing the most lucid conjuring of the era.  There are also more than a few hints of prog which is bound to occur when the bass takes such a prominent role and the band experiment with funky breaks throughout the album's span.

Prominent bass courtesy of Anders Broström and organ via vocalist Erik Broström make for a complete and full-bodied sound.  Amaxa are as much a riff heavy band as any on Paranoid Hitsophrenic but they are a band with a difference.  Bass and organ are treated as lead instruments while Peter Pedersen's guitar is at times artfully understated.  This understatement comes to a quiet boil on the song "Elusive" where it's hard to even distinguish the guitar at times beneath the gridlock of fuzz bass and sixties style organ.  Drummer Jimmy Halvarsson is the unsung hero of the band, holding the fort with ease, pumping out beats that perfectly complement the other musicians while never demanding more than a fair share of the spotlight.

Amaxa put their best foot forward on the first two tracks, showcasing their most mouth-watering riffs on front and center display.  The band then move into their more garage psych, organ-driven sound on the third track.  "Shooting Star" is straight out of some garage from 1960s Wisconsin, the main organ lead perfectly lifted from the day and age of tie-died t-shirts, white guys with afros and mutton chop sideburns.  This  feeling is revisited fully in album closer, "Afterglow" which is also the name of terrific American sixties band that shares a lot in common with these two tracks.  It's a fantastic song that takes many labrynthine twists and turns and ends the album on a very high note. (Afterglow were one of the first underground psychedelic bands from the sixties that I discovered, oh so many years ago, a musical journey that was instrumental in getting me to this point.  It's great when everything can come full circle.)

Like any riff worshipping act there is the occasional hint of Black Sabbath that slips in.  Rarely has that ubiquitous ghost of Sabbath been raised in this context, mixed with 60s American garage psych outside of Brazil's Necronomicon.  The blend is effective, but is not the only point of reference here.  Mr. Iommi clinks bottles with the wah boogie funk of Jimi Hendrix on "The Heartache of Philip Marlowe".

Everything about this album from the psychedelic swirl cover art on down appeals to the days of yore, but they are not just another retro rock band from Sweden.  I find myself saying that a lot but I always mean it, especially here.  Go ahead and take a listen for yourself on the player below, there aren't many bands that sound like Amaxa out there and it's a good sound, evoking a specific time, place and spirit while mixing in many different elements of later eras.  Amaxa take the organ driven nature of sixties garage bands like ? & the Mysterians or Afterglow, mix it with the fat funk riffs of The Hendrix Experience or Leaf Hound and the prog sensibilities of Caravan or Gabriel-era Genesis and the band is left with a satisfying solution of retro goodness.

Highlights include: "Final Escape" and "Don't Feed"

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 37:35

From: Stockholm, Sweden

Genre: Garage Psych, Boogie Rock, Stoner, Riff Rock

Reminds me of: Afterglow, Deep Purple, Leaf Hound, Mount Carmel, Necronomicon, Nuggets bands of the 1960s, Paisley Underground bands of the 1980s, Please, Three Seasons, Vinum Sabbatum

Release Date: November 2, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Lick the acid off another man's jean jacket in a rest room.  With a bit of luck, you'll ruin somebody's life.

Better Reviews:
Soda Shop
The Obelisk

Amaxa on facebook


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