Swedish Greenleaf have, since 1999, been through a number of incarnations, but the 2012 adaptation featuring Tommi Holappa on guitar, Bengt Backe on bass, Oskar Cedermalm on vocals, Johan Rockner on guitar and Olle Marthans on drums, has come up with a heavy dose of early 70’s rock inspired genius with “Nest of Vipers” on Small Stone Records.
The opening few bars of “Jack Staff” set the bar high with raw, fuzzy guitar, melodic vocal and drums that lurch around high up in the mix. By the time the listener has reached the second track “Case of Fidelity” they will be reaching for the bourbon and cigars. “Lilith” is drenched in sumptuous organ and plump fuzzy guitar, whilst “Tree of Life” is pure cosmic psychedelic progressive rock of the highest order.
The highlight for this reviewer has to be the mighty “Dreamcatcher” with its easily recognisable and easily imitated on air guitar driving guitar chord progressions and clattering “Keith Moon” drumming. The pace slows slightly for “At the Helm”, but the power and the flamboyance is still very much in evidence. The reverberation of a dinosaur meandering over the opening of “The Timeline’s History” is the thick heavy bass sound of Backe, which gives way to a further four minutes of tightly controlled but mischievous blues.
The mighty eight minutes, however, of “Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins)” which closes the album, is a tour de force of realised ambition with extravagant arrangements, luxurious organ drones, rich vocal lines and the familiar clatter of drums. Eight minutes here allows for a little more experimentation and lateral arrangements, but by this time the listener would forgive this slight indulgence.
“Nest of Vipers” is bursting with energy and excitement, and displays a level of musicianship and teamwork that is rare to find, but when found, promises much. Each track carries the hallmark of well planned song structure, and there is never a sense that each individual player is vying for the limelight. Greenleaf here manage to maintain a balance between free-form psychedelic jams and tightly crafted, blues tinged workouts. What comes across primarily is how the percussion is used as a focus for the tunes.
The whole range of the drum kit is all over every track, and leaves the listener breathless with exhilaration. The bass is rock steady throughout and provides the perfect anvil on which to hammer out each refrain. The assortment of dynamics on display here is phenomenal. Opeth keyboardist Per Wiberg adds organ to a number of tracks which lends them a heads down, denim jacketed wearing 70’s authenticity. The cover of the album is black and white and psychedelic enough to give a hint of what is inside.
The production has analogue written all the way through it like a huge stick of stoner rock. If all this sounds like an album that you may enjoy, then waste no time in getting hold of a copy, because there is no doubt that you will not be disappointed.