There was a time in the mid to late 70's when a modicum of mellowness and melody started creeping into heavy rock, it was a period that saw the rise of bands like Bad Company, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Boston and early Foreigner, bands who when called upon could rock like a cradle in a hurricane but also had in their locker songs that could tug at your heartstrings and didn't just rely on a riff to grab their listeners attention. Sweden's Snowy Dunes, Niklas Eisen (lead vocals, percussion, acoustic guitar); Christoffer Kingstedt (electric guitars, guitorchestration); Carl Oredson (bass, keyboards, mellotron) and Jonathan Wårdsäter (drums, percussion) do not exactly work from the same blueprint that those bands used to propel their careers into the stratosphere, Snowy Dunes grooves are a little bit too gnarly and gritty, but they do bring to underground rock many of those same attributes of songcraft, melody and soulful gravitas that saw those other bands become staples of worldwide rock radio stations, attributes that can be found scattered quite liberally throughout the five songs that make up the bands third album "Sastrugi"
Title track "Sastrugi" (a word used to describe parallel wave-like ridges caused by winds on the surface of hard snow) kicks things off in grand style, with hardly an intro other than a brief shimmering effect the song jumps straight in to the vocal backed by any almost funkish hard rock groove with the guitar laying down an almost staccato like refrain beneath which booming bass and thunderously busy drums keep things tight and on course while the singer tells us of being lost amid the snow in tones clean and powerful. If you are already familiar with Snowy Dunes you will know that they are not a band who like to stay stuck in one groove for the duration of a song and so its not long before the funky heaviness is jettisoned for a trip into lysergic territory, random whistling, reverberating guitar tones and hazy soulful vocals giving the songs latter section an almost spaghetti western/surf rock dynamic. The heady psychedelic feel of the latter part of the previous song is continued into next track "Let's Save Dreams" a song that sees Snowy Dunes recruiting a few friends to help fill things out, Alex Gatica contributing keys, acoustic guitar and backing vocals and Adele Friberg also adding her weight to the vocals. There is a trippy late 60's playfulness to this song that had Desert Psychlist reminiscing about Hollywood's attempts to portray pop culture on celluloid back in the heyday's of love and peace, if you close your eyes you can almost see the mini-skirted beauties and young men in tie-dyed shirts and beads dancing along to its eastern tinted grooves while their blue-rinsed elders look on disapprovingly. Following track "Great Divide" switches routinely between a laid back torch song and an out and out rocker with Eisen adjusting his vocal approach accordingly while "Medicinmannen" finds the band grooving melodic yet gritty on a song sang in their native Swedish, something that strangely has the effect of giving the song a Latinesque feel. For final track "Helios" Snowy Dunes opt for a mix of lounge lizard jazziness and psych tinted classic rock resulting in a groove that is reminiscent of The Doors in places but with a slightly more stoner-ish dynamic.
"Sastrugi" is probably Snowy Dunes most diverse and contemporary sounding album to date but do not take that as a bad thing, there is an uplifting feel to the grooves the band bring to the table with their third album that makes for a refreshing change from the doom and gloom we have been surrounded by over the last eighteen months.
Check it out .....
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