True tales of horror, madness and hard livin’
We’ve all been there: spent many a long night with a few too many beers and too few friends, piling through the Hammer Horror catalogue and some of Russ Mayer’s less-lauded cinematic excretions, probably with some herbal accompaniment as well. Few wake up having formed a band, though. That’s just what happened with mysterious Swedish psych-doom quintet Salem’s Pot, however, as lead guitarist and vocalist Micke explains:“It all started with two of us watching old horror movies all night and listening to 70s music while we were living in a small, doomed town that the idea of doing something together just grew.” He continues, “Movies are very important to us and also a big part of our entity as Salem’s Pot. Not any specific movies, but when we record in the studio I bring movies to set the mood – some that I remember bringing for the recording of Pronounce This! were: Danger Diabolik, Suspiria, Evil Dead and Bad Taste. I like to think of our band as if El Topo rode up to The Last House On The Left and that house turned out to be the house from Evil Dead.”
Formed a little over five years ago, the enigmatic, full name-shy troupe have endured several lineup changes during their short existence, with their former drummer now moved to second guitar and recently recruited drummer moving to bass guitar.
With a lineup solidified and a number of EPs under their belts – notably the 35-minute, two-part Sweeden, which sounds something like Electric Wizard playing 13th Floor Elevators tracks backwards – in 2014 the then-quartet released their debut full-length, Lurar Ut Dig På Prärien, a raw, almost ultra-doom record seeped in the folksy, pastoral doom traditions of these shores. Now, however, throughout their new LP, the remarkable Pronounce This!, the masked Swedes have managed, through some wicked alchemy, to combine their psychedelic tendencies with their love of all things doom. Maybe their achievement had something to do with rehearsing in a former mental asylum?
“Yes, that’s true,” reveals Micke. “It used to be a mental hospital in the 60s and 70s and the room we rehearse in is one of the rooms where the patients lived – there is definitely some bad energy in many of the rooms. We feel right at home there!”
Yet dismiss Salem’s Pot as riff-loving, stoner-loonies at your peril – as their self-ascribed epithet ‘catchy reality’ implies, behind the masks and pot-puns, there’s some serious shit going on: “‘Catchy reality’ basically means that we sing about real life over catchy tunes,” explains Micke finally. “Mankind is the real horror and it’s our own fault, so it’s all based on the reality that we seem to share with a lot of people who can’t find happiness in this egocentric world. I love the decadent stories in old country music, too – it’s just raw and honest. People like Townes van Zandt, Gram Parsons and Merle Haggard probably lived harder than any rocker and sang about that instead of singing about wizards or banging chicks.”
WHO ARE THEY?
LINEUP: N (guitar/vocals), H (guitar), Micke (organ/synthesizers ), E (bass), D (drums)
SOUND LIKE: What Roky Erickson hears in his dreams after listening to too much Hawkwind, whilst Hank Williams shouts outside of his window
FOR FANS OF: Purson, Turbonegro, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, New York Dolls
CURRENT RELEASE: Pronounce This! (Riding Easy, 2016)
A southern hemisphere ode to the north
When speaking of Australian metal, the cold and snowy landscapes of Northern Europe aren’t usually the first things you think of, but it’s exactly those images that led to the formation of King in 2013. Having played in together in grind and death metal bands over many years, vocalist Tony Forde and guitarist David Hill joined forces once again to create a band that invoked Scandinavian metal to its core.
“We’re all fans of black metal and many European bands and wanted to create a sound no other band here in Australia has created,” Tony explains “King’s sound has become something we are very attached to.”
Two years in the making, King’s debut, Reclaim The Darkness, calls to mind Immortal and comes with an epic line in melody and a massive passion for all things cold. Where the album speaks of giants and lore and old world history, it sets King apart from their countrymen and places them alongside their European counterparts in tone and style, although as Tony explains, they still feel a strong sense of attachment to the local scene in Melbourne.
“All of us have been playing in bands for more than 20 years and the metal scene here is great. There’s a huge variety of metal bands, and heaps of established live music venues that actively support metal.”
As well as overseeing the release of Reclaim The Darkness, King are heading out around Australia and New Zealand with Inquisition later this year and supporting Enslaved in their hometown. And their hopes for the album?
“We hope people enjoy our songs first and foremost, and take the journey through the melodies, epic choruses and themes we are portraying.” It’s a journey well worth taking.
WHO ARE THEY?
LINEUP: Tony Forde (vocals), David Hill (guitar), David Haley (drums)
SOUNDS LIKE: Blizzard-battling, mid-paced Nordic style black metal with a Gothenburg-styled melodeath groove and all-round sense of the epic
CURRENT RELEASE: Reclaim The Darkness (Indie Recordings, 2016)
Scandic retro-rockers plug into the present
With the current crop of 60/70s-inspired bands coming from Sweden, few are daring to go beyond the light-hearted nostalgic themes of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll to address current issues. MaidaVale’s debut album, Tales Of The Wicked West, is a high-energy assault of bombastic psychedelic rock that serves as the perfect platform to deliver something more meaningful in such turbulent times.
“A lot is going on in the world at the moment that you want to say something about,” says vocalist Matilda Roth. “That’s why some songs turn out to be political while others are more personal. We want to write about things that are relevant today. If we can make people think and open their minds, that would be great.”
Taking their name from the famous London Studio, MaidaVale’s music is clearly rooted in the 60s and 70s but has a youthful energy and a gritty urban vocal approach, giving the band a more defiant, modern vitality.
“It was an inspiring time in music history with a lot of great bands,” says guitarist Sofia Ström, “but we never felt our music has to sound a certain way or fit into a specific genre. Other people probably see us more as a 70s band than we do ourselves.”
The band have also received high praise for their intense and passionate live performances and in true rabble-rousing tradition. Sofia offers her take: “Playing live is something we really love. We’re very present and immersed in the music when we play, and I think that comes across. During a live show you want the audience to share the experience with you. It’s definitely an opportunity to reach out, even though what we want is to connect with people through music and energy.”
WHO ARE THEY?
LINEUP: Matilda Roth (vocals), Sofia Ström (guitar), Linn Johannesson (bass), Johanna Hansson (drums)
SOUNDS LIKE: Richly textured, blues-dappled early 70s-style rock with a restless and questioning edge
CURRENT RELEASE: Tales Of The Wicked West (The Sign, 2016)