The first of two related posts reviewing new psych/power rock albums on the Norwegian Rune Grammofon label looks at the debuts of El Doom & the Born Electric, plus El Doom guitarist Hedvig Mollestad’s trio.
A second post looks at a new collaboration between Motorpsycho and Ståle Storløkken – The Death Defying Unicorn – and the latest from Bushman’s Revenge, A Little Bit of Big Bonanza.
El Doom & the Born Electric – El Doom & the Born Electric (Rune Grammofon)
El Doom plays a heavy, melodic progressive rock that has clear affinities with bands such as Opeth or the Mars Volta, and carries traces of the classic hard rocker of Deep Purple. It’s ambitious stuff, if a little too blustery and overblown at times, and this, their debut album, is dense with powerfully hooky tunes such as “It’s Electric”, which flirts with funk-metal, and “The Lights”, with its power-ballad chorus.
The album suffers most, and avoidably, from ‘Gary Moore syndrome’, with principal songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Ole Petter Andreassen apparently loath to admit that his vocals just aren’t either strong or charismatic enough to carry his music. His voice, though adequate enough during quiet passages, sounds overwrought when the music is full-bore; witness “The Hook” for evidence.
The core Doomers—Andreassen plus guitarists Bryjar Takle Ohr and Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen (who also plays Hammond), and drummer Håvard Takle Ohr—becomes a collective tentet with the addition of guest musicians; a supporting cast that includes two bassists and two additional Hammond players. One of the latter is Ståle Storløkken (Supersilent, Humcrush); one of the former his partner in elephant9, Nikolai Hængsle Eilertson.
Another notable presence is veteran Norwegian guitarist Jon Eberson, a player I’m not familiar with though his presence does seem to have been a galvanising one. He apparently “insisted on not hearing any music, plugged in, burned his way through “It’s Electric” and “The Hook” and was home in time for an early dinner”.
The whole album doesn’t feel so spontaneous, but neither is it overcooked or excessively extravagant. Andreassen’s material is catchy and memorable enough to appeal to a broad fanbase. Queens of the Stone Age fans who find the Mars Volta too indulgent might find El Doom more digestible.
Hedvig Mollestad Trio – Shoot! (Rune Grammofon)
The debut album by El Doom guitarist Hedvig Mollestad’s trio with bassist Ellen Brekken and drummer Ivar Loe Bjørnstad strips away all of the bluster, and is altogether leaner and more agile.
Shoot! was released last year. I initially passed over it, lost as it was among an apparent glut of undoubtedly proficient but overly nostalgic Nordic power-rock. But I went back to it after picking up on Mollestad’s contribution to El Doom, and I’m glad I did because it’s an excellent album.
Every track here has its own flavour, and Mollestad explores diverse moods. There’s measured, ‘clean fusion’-style jazz licks à la John Scofield on “Doom’s Lair” or Bill Frisell on “The Valley”; then there’s a raucous take on Melvins’ grindhouse postpunk, with a cover of their “Blood Witch”. That track has the album’s only vocal, and it’s a raw one at that.
Mollestad’s trio is a formidably tight outfit, playing with the elasticity of a great jazz band yet harnessesing the power-surge aesthetic of hard rock. Witness the snappy way they lock into the mighty riff of “Sidetracked”, only to make room for Brekken’s lovely double bass solo.
The rhythm section play independently in free time on the lively “Ashes” where Bjørnstad gambols around Brekken’s bass workout while Mollestad’s guitar alternately carries the melodic head and stokes the forward momentum with concise riffs. “For the Air”, by contrast, is initially unwieldy, ploughing a deep Sabs riff through a thicket of abrasive guitar abstractions, before a freewheeling melodic breakout unexpectedly lifts the mood. All of the tracks here are concise and packed with fresh ideas, and the trio’s buoyant elasticity keeps everything box-fresh.
The Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s drummer, Ivar Lee Bjørnstad, is also a member of Cakewalk, whose superb album for Hubro, Wired is reviewed on Dalston Sound here.
Motorpsycho and Ståle Storløkken: The Death Defying Unicorn + Bushman’s Revenge: A Little Bit of Big Bonanza
elephant9 with Reine Fiske – Atlantis + Motorpsycho – Blissard 4CD
SynKoke – The Ideologist