Monday, August 27, 2012

The Day After The Sabbath 75: Midgarðsormr [Swedish Special]

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For Vol 72, I concentrated on Denmark [edit: Here is Norway, and Finland]. Here is the second in my Nordic quadrilogy, a Swedish special. The name is from Norse mythology, Midgarðsormr is the sea serpent that encircles the world, which it's feared will fall apart if he ever releases his bite on his tail. Lets hope that doesn't happen in the next hour at least.

What has become clear is that Sweden has by far the largest and most varied rock history of all the norse countries, so it's been a pretty mammoth task listening through it all to find the right-sounding bands for this one. I'm sure there is still a lot more to find so don't expect this to be the last Svenska volume... Sweden's 'Progg' movement was one of the reasons. It can be likened in many ways to Germany's Krautrock scene; musical collectives exploring ways to use avant-garde rock music in their left-wing, anti-commercial protests against the establishment. While the sound of the 'Progg' movement is not the driving force for this comp, it appears in a few tacks and if you want to know more I recommend a box set called "The Essence of Swedish Progressive Music 1967-1979: Pregnant Rainbows for Colourblind Dreamers".

We start with a band that has a link to Sweden's most successful musical export, and to a few bands that have appeared on the blog. 'Baltik' was a one-off studio project that included occasional Abba guitarist Janne Schaffer and Roxy Music/Quatermass/Hard Stuff/Ian Gillan Band bassist John Gustafson. Janne played guitar for many of Abba's hits and is a well known prog-jazz guitarist in his own right, he also worked with John Gustafson in the Swedish band Ablution. Baltik's "Leslie Briggs" is a great heavy opener which can easily be described as the earliest in 'prog-metal', though not typical of their album which was a curious mixture of folkish prog with a few heavy moments.

Björn Famne e.p.
The most information I can find on Björn Famne's 'Vampire' is on oscarowski's Youtube clip : "..private release recorded in the religious Falk studios in Sweden... the rest of the tracks veer towards classic guitar (no other instruments) and it is believed that this song was recorded when the sound engineer was out to have a coffe or something... what would the "almost priests" working there have said if they found out... hahaha. Compiled on the great 'Who will buy these wonderful evils'...."

Stockholm's November have appeared here before, way back on Vol2 and here is another stunning timeless sounding track that sounds as though it could have been recorded last week by a contemporary stoner rock band, though it is actually from 1972. November really were a talented bunch and had a distinctive approach to their heavy blues-tinged riffs. Though they were only together for three years, thankfully they made three albums in that time. The awesome production job is the other aspect that belies this recording's age.

Asoka were from Malmö and their background was in older band 'Taste Of Blues'. The sound changed a lot and resulted in their manic and unusual s/t album which had a playful air while maintaining the heaviness. Wildmarken were from the Sollefteå area. It's been hard to find info on them even though they were together for 5 years and had two albums on EMI, there is a little here on They were pretty average commercial hard-ish rock but I do like this track "Vad Vill Dom" (Eng: What do they want?) which has a cool phased riff and menacing, grinding pace. Tomas Jansson and Janne Åhman went on to 'Circus' who made one e.p.

Next up is a couple of linked tracks; from 'Epizootic' and 'E.F. Band'. They both included Bengt Fischer and Pär Ericsson. Little is noted regarding Epizootic, they had one apparently self-released album called 'Daybreak' with some multi-instrumental prog and their track here 'Sunset, Emotion' is a heavy hammond-assited slab. EF Band ('EF' was derived from the first letter of Ericcson and Fischer's names) were based in Gothenburg. They made some impact in the NWOBHM scene, English member Roger Marsden went on to Angel Witch and guitarist Andy La Rocque (aka Anders Allhage) joined King Diamond. They were included on the 1st instalment of the classic 1980 'Metal For Muthas' compilations and had three albums before breaking up in 1987. 1979's 'Self Made Suicide' was their first single which was recorded at Red Ball studio in Shropshire, UK.

Kebnekaise (the name taken from that of Sweden's hightest mountain) have quite a prominent place in Swedish rock history stretching back to the mid sixties. They evolved from Baby Grandmothers, who was one of the country's first heavy psych bands and supported Jimi Hendrix's Swedish appearances in 1968 along with Mecki Mark Men, another of Sweden's formative heavy psych acts. Kebnekaise resulted from a coming together of members of these bands and some more including 'Homo Sapiens' and Tages, an accomplished band that were Sweden's best answer to The Beatles.

The Baby Grandmothers' guitarist Kenny Håkansson was the driving force of Kebnekaise and as was popular in the progg scene, folk influences crept in too. It's hard to describe the first Kebnekaise album, but it's definitely unique. There's elements of everything that was happening in commercial and underground progressive rock of the time, and plenty of extremity, but it's all infused with quirky Swedish melody and personality. For instance, the track 'Resa Mot Okänt Mål' is fast and brutal by anyone's standards and it's over-laid with pinky'n perky style speeded up vocals.

Neon Rose
Stockholm's Neon Rose were a band clearly showing the mid-seventies development of hard rock into speedy heavy metal, as the blistering 'Night Birds' demonstrates. They were lucky enough to get signed to Vertigo almost immediately on formation. After listening through all their recorded output, it's clear they had the musical chops to make it. The problem seems to me that none of their 3 albums were quite consistent enough to adequately maintain the Motörhead-like intensity which they hinted at. A good example of where a little more quality control could have made all the difference.

'4 Ever' were the initial incarnation of Stockholm's Solid Ground who I used back on Vol28. The strange thing is that the two tracks they recorded as '4 Ever' sound a lot more professional than the album that was released under the Solid Ground moniker two years later. If anyone out there can explain, please do... Stokholm's 'The Outsiders' are up next, they only recorded a few singles and both sides of their 'On My Magic Carpet / Inside Of Me' 1968 single are excellent heavy slices of freakbeat punk.

Gothenburg's Midsommar began life focusing on political subjects with their first album but the next one in 1972 was musically far stronger and rocked hard in places with hints of November vibe in the guitar riffs, and some pretty good brass backing it up. Scorpion's 'I Am The Scorpion' one-album curio was produced by american producer and cult music figure Kim Fowly, who later managed The Runaways, how it came about that he was involved in this obscutity is still for me to find out.... It also has drummer Pelle Holm who was in a late lineup of Kebnekaise. 'Hey Girl I'm Ugly' is a catchy piece of acid-bluesy rock.

Charlie & Esdor
Charlie & Esdor's first recorded music appeared on the 'Festen på Gärdet' live album, a collection of performances from Stokholm's 1970 outdoor festival, which according to Wikipedia, was 'inspired by the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock..... and came to serve as something of a unifying starting point for the 'progg' leftist progressive music movement.' In 1972 they made an e.p. called 'Grönt är skönt' and in 2005 Mellotronen released a great retrospective which shows the duo's varied skills in heavy folk, blues and rock, from which 'Fuck The Cops' is a particularly scathing instrumental.

We wind up this one with Uppsala's Rävjunk, which literally means Fox Piss in english. They began around 1970 and played many of the progg movement's free festivals but did not record until 1977. At this time they were in a quandary about whether to follow the new punk trends or continue with their earlier space rock sounds so their only album, the home-studio made 'Uppsala Stadshotell Brinner' ended up as punk on one side and space rock on the other. Both are great though and they were clearly good at what ever they did.

01. Baltik - Leslie Briggs (1973)
       from album 'baltik'
02. Björn Famne - Vampire (1975)
       from e.p.
03. November - Starka Tillsammans (1972)
       from album '6:e november'
04. Asoka - Tvivlaren (1971)
       from album 'asoka'
05. Wildmarken - Vad Vill Dom (1977)
       from album 'och nu på sjuttiotalet'
06. Epizootic - Sunset, Emotion (1976)
       from album 'daybreak'
07. EF Band - Self Made Suicide  (1979)
08. Kebnekaise - Kommunisera (1971)
       from album 'resa mot okänt mål'
09. Neon Rose - Night Birds (1975)
       from album 'reload'
10. 4 Ever - Vansiniga Berta (1974)
11. The Outsiders - Inside Of Me (1968)
12. Midsommar - Till Morsan (1972)
       from album 'belsebub är lös ...'
13. Scorpion - Hey Girl I'm Ugly (1970)
       from album 'i am the scorpion'
14. Charlie & Esdor - Fuck The Cops (1970)
       from retrospective 'charlie & esdor'
15. Rävjunk - Snöspår (Del 1,2 Och 3) (1977)
       from album 'uppsala stadshotell brinner'

Thanks for listening, Rich.

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  1. Thanks a lot, man, great work as usual. I'm impatient to see what you include from Finland...

    1. I haven't started that one yet, but I already have a few pointers, All recommendations gratefully received though!

    2. Hi Rich: some suggestions/recommendations: Yellow-Keltakuume, Melvin McRae Band-Queen of hearts, Charlies-Buttocks, Elonkorjuu-S/t, Kalevala-People no names, Albert Jarvinen-Ride on, Rockressio 7", also some tracks by Royals, Apollo, Tasavallan Presidentti, Wigwam, Jukka Tolonen, Tabula Rasa, Hurriganes...

  2. My favorite album art so far! Can't wait to listen, doing Heavy Psych Man proud on many of these!

    1. Thanks Zisch! Yeah I was rather happy when I chanced upon this artist Angus Mcbride! check his stuff out, perfect album art. like Virgil Finlay that I used on the DTTF comps; has that old school vibe that suits the music. HAs Heavy Psych Man used any of these before?

  3. got Rävjunk - Snöspår on repeat... what a hellish good track:)!!!!!!

  4. Great compilation, thnx a lot!

    Note that the November track from this volume and the one from vol#2 are the featured tracks of an Abramis Brama/Svarte Pan split single from 2003, so when saying that "it could have been recorded last week by a contemporary stoner rock band", well... They were!

    Svarte Pan - Starka Tillsammans

    Abramis Brama - Barkbroedslaaten [Kebnekajse] / Mitt hjaerta ska vara gjort av sten [November] (couldn't find a youtube clip of studio version, though)

    Also, for more from November drummer Björn Inge, check out Maarran:

  5. Thanx for a wonderful article. Had to do some promotion for it on my blog (in Swedish of course):-)
    Hope that is ok.

  6. Hi Rich: some suggestions/recommendations: Yellow-Keltakuume, Melvin McRae Band-Queen of hearts, Charlies-Buttocks, Elonkorjuu-S/t, Kalevala-People no names, Albert Jarvinen-Ride on, Rockressio 7", also some tracks by Royals, Apollo, Tasavallan Presidentti, Wigwam, Jukka Tolonen, Tabula Rasa, Hurriganes...

    1. Thanks for those Finnish tips man! Very useful...

    2. My pleasure...

    3. Great suggestions by the guy above, I also recommend JIMI SUMÉN-Key west, but ONLY that LP, the others are synth/techno pop!!!!!

    4. Thanks, I have been looking Key West already but not able to find anywhere, can you send it to me?

  7. I'm very sorry but I can't convert my old Key West LP to digital (I haven't the gear to do it), you can get it from torrent:

    1. Thanks. Unfortunately that torrent is over three years old and there's no seeds :(

    2. I'm sorry, my knowledge of "new medias" is extremely limited... good luck!

    3. I just found it on Soulseek, I hope the download completes!

  8. when finland compilation??

  9. I like Icecross band
    When iceland and filand compilation?

  10. This blog is so, so killer. Can't thank you enough.