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Music Review: Swedish Round-Up – Abramis Brama, Mangrove, & The Crystal Caravan

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Today Eurorock brings you three of the best of a recent batch of heavy rock releases from Sweden.

First, we have Abramis Brama an established hard rock band with their latest album Smakar Sondag. Next up is Endless Skies from Mangrove a band renowned for their seventies flavoured psychedelic rock jams. The Crystal Caravan also bring us their self titled debut. 

Abramis Brama – Smakar Sondag
It’s been four years since Abramis Brama released their last studio album Rubicon. Now we have the long awaited follow up Smakar Sondag. The clue is in the title and the vocals are delivered in the bands native Swedish.

The title translated means Tastes Sunday and it comes at the end of a period of change for the band. Out went original drummer Jansson who joined Witchcraft, in came guitarist Rob from Backdraft, and drummer Trisse from Grand Magus.

This is seventies rock with several pleasing twists. Written over a period of twelve years it is representative of Abramis Brama past, present, and possibly future. The fact that the lyrics will have you scrambling around for a Swedish phrase book shouldn’t necessarily deter any English speaking seventies hard rock fan as it is easy to connect with their energy.

Sure, I’d love to be able to understand the superb “N.E.J.”, but even though my language limitations don’t let me get the lyrics, I’m there with them musically. Light and dark switches are at work with the delicate “N.E.J.” making way for a pulsating “Langsamt”.

Smakar Sondag is very much for fans of November, or Mountain, but also has a nice dollop of Cream and a dose of Sabbath in the mix as well.

Catch up with the band on their MySpace page but have your phrasebook handy.

Mangrove – Endless Skies
This is the album that early Ozzie era Black Sabbath never got round to making. Happily Sweden’s Mangrove have stepped in and delivered an album that will have Sabbath fans, along with those of hard rock seventies style, foaming with excitement.

Mangrove was formed when two members of Sideburn left to create their own band. The trio of singer, bassist Jani Kataja, guitarist Magnus Jernstrom, and drummer Fredrik Broqvist went into Gig studios in Stockholm and laid down the tracks that make up Endless Skies.

This is solid, heavy, psychedelic rock delivered with 2009 production that brings the album home. Vocalist Jani sounds at times uncannily like Ozzy, singing in English, over a band that drives out wall upon wall of solid rock. 

The promo material declares that “barely could the compact disc carry the heaviness of the sound”. I have to agree as the band all but break out of your speakers and materialise in front of you. It's high impact, high energy, and highly impressive.

Opening track “Universal Time” is solid enough but the band has plenty more where that came from. It makes me want to pack the car and drive to Stockholm and get to a Mangrove gig.

Further highlights are delivered by the ultra Sabbath sounding “Pieces Of Our Yesterday”, which comes complete with glorious Tony Iommi doom laden riff, which leads to the teeth rattling pulse of the title track. When the band slows it down a notch for the openings of “River Of My Soul”, and “Time Of Sorrow” they do it expertly.

Scandinavia continues to produce many quality rock bands and it takes something to make one stand out. Mangrove has that ingredient and Endless Skies hits all the right targets with a swaggering confidence and total conviction.

Listen out for the instrumental “Back By The Mountainside”, the driving Ozzy-esque “Electric Eye”, or the chiming intro to “Mangrove” that slowly builds within its shades of light and dark. Another doom laden riff permeates the last track, the instrumental “Quivering Ground” as Mangrove sign off in some style.

Turn up your speakers and play this at the volume it was always intended to be played. You can always move house afterwards.
Further details can be found on the bands MySpace page.

The Crystal Caravan – The Crystal Caravan
Here it is, the self titled debut from Swedish seven-piece hard rock band The Crystal Caravan. The ten track CD is delivered in English through the impressive vocals of Niklas Gustafsson. The band also have a twin guitar approach, along with generous use of keys and comes at you like a live performance.

It taps into the early seventies psychedelic rock groove nicely. At times they even splash it with a little Ray Manzarek keys giving it a faint Doors-like feel.
The Crystal Caravan kicks with the ‘in-your-face’, totally committed intro to “Between The Mountain And The Spoon” a track that introduces powerful vocals, impressive guitar work, and wired, yet controlled, drumming.

It’s rough, direct, no-frills rock. Played large and live it comes at you like a powered up wall of amps. An early highlight “Down Under” slows it down a touch, and takes me way back to Exile era Stones. The keys add a touch of individuality as they hammer out track after track.

“Dead Inside” is not one to drive too as it is foot stompingly heavy with a great twist in the break at its centre. The band ruthlessly take you into the impressive “A New Time Is Coming”. The equally impressive “Train Song” takes its spirit from the rock of the seventies, and conjures up something of a highlight.

This is where the band are at their strongest. The time trip that is “Monkey”, is a wired combination of a generous host of influences. It comes to an end with “Desert King” with some great early guitar work and by now typically powerful and impressive drumming.

Take a ride on The Crystal Caravan on their MySpace page.

Next week Eurorock is off to Holland and France to bring you more of the latest Euro releases.

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