When it feels like the world is going to hell, sometimes you just need rock ‘n’ roll.
Last Thursday, May 4, Horisont came all the way from Sweden to play the Velvet Underground, but the turnout wasn’t great. The progressive heavy rockers have five albums, impeccable musicianship and are part of a hard/heavy rock revival that’s going strong back home – possibly due to Ghost’s success – but is under-the-radar in North America.
Many of the affiliated bands don’t play typical hard rock. The aesthetic is still jean + tattoos + volumes of hair, but the genre’s trademark catchiness and straightforward songwriting have, especially in the case of Horisont, given way to something closer to neo-prog. Here’s a handful of contemporary heavy-rocking Swedish bands you should know. They rarely make it to Toronto, so get out to see them next time.
Axel Soderberg’s voice – think a higher-pitched and more relentless Rob Halford – isn’t for everyone, but it matches the urgent forward drive of the five-piece’s constantly duelling guitars, bonkers drumming and searing synth lines. Their sprawling songs ebb and flow, taking many left-field turns. At the Velvet Underground, the band delivered a career-ranging set list that included standouts Writing On The Wall from 2013’s Time Warriors and Bad News, from their new About Time LP.
Spiders peddle a relatively straight-ahead, endearingly low-budget brand of 70s-inspired rock ‘n’ roll with a good dose of attitude and melody. Vocalist Ann-Sofie Hoyles has fantastic stage presence, and harmonica makes an occasional appearance.
Black Trip share members with another great Swedish band Enforcer – Joseph Tholl sings in the former and plays guitar in the latter. Meanwhile Jonas Wikstrand drummed for both up until his recent departure from Black Trip, and primary songwriter/guitarist Peter Stjärnvind used to drum for death metal’s Entombed. Black Trip’s sound is closer to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal end of the spectrum, and totally kicks.
Imperial State Electric
Garage-rock cult favourites Hellacopters could never be replaced, but singer/guitarist Nicke Andersson is doing a fine job of trying with his Imperial State Electric. (Continuing the band-swapping thread, eclectic Andersson also drums for Entombed.) If you like your rock ‘n’ roll infused with power pop sensibilities, turn this one up loud.
Robert Pehrsson’s Humbucker
Robert Pehrsson has ties to Imperial State Electric, having filled in for guitarist Tobias Egge on a tour of Spain in winter 2011. Like Andersson, he has a more extreme style of heavy metal in his history but currently turns out impeccably written, highly hummable hard rock that occasionally nods to Thin Lizzy. Check it.
If you like your heavy rock with a serious dose of blues, Graveyard are your band. The stalwarts of the Swedish rock scene played a rare show at the Garrison two years ago (their first and, so far, last), exciting us with classic songs like Hisingen Blues in addition to impressive new ones from Innocence & Decadence, which was released four months later.
A new discovery for me. Seriously 70s. This tune is from 2015’s The Transendence, but also check out Electric Eel, off a brand-new 7-inch release. Sick solos.
Heavy and tough. Can’t get enough.
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