Reviews for Agents Of Ahriman...
The Ripple Effect
Ok, it's official.
We here at The Ripple have decided that Sweden must be the best place in the world to live. Not only do they dominate the only sport that matters, winning the last Olympic gold medal (yes, that would be hockey for those who have to ask) but they also boast arguably the best defensemen to ever play the game (Nicolas Lidstrom), and the current Conn Smyth trophy winner (Henrik Zetterberg). Heck, with the arrival of Henrik Lundquist you can't even make fun of their goaltenders anymore. Now if only someone would buy a bionic foot for Peter Forsburg...
But in addition to their hockey prowess, Sweden is a country that loves its music and it seems that those Swedes have learned to dominate just about every music genre that matters, covering all bases with top-quality exports. You like psychedelic prog? Try Deadman. Garagey punk rock? The Hellacopters, the Hives and Backyard Babies got you covered. Prog metal? Opeth wrote the book, baby. Trettioariga Kriget and The Soundtrack of our Lives play prog rock like none other and don't even get me started on their contributions to Death metal, Doom or the Gothenburg sound. Let's face it, those wacky Swedes can do it all.
And now there's Greenleaf, the latest revelation to toke back a joint and belt out a massively fuzzed out stoner-seventies riff. In truth, it was only a matter of time before the Swedes took over the head of the stoner rock mantle, they'd been bubbling just underneath the surface for a while with quality bands like Lowrider, Dozer, Electric Wizard, and Spiritual Beggars. So, just what do you think would happen if some of those leading forces of Swedish stoned-out metal joined together in an unholy THC-laced matrimony, creating a supergroup of bong-fueled heavy rock? The answer is what we've got spinning nonstop on our Ripple turntable right now, a mini-masterpiece of grooving bass lines, cranked up riffs and enough melody to hook the whole thing together and pound that baby through your system.
Originally formed in late 1999 by guitarist Tommi Holappa (Dozer), drummer Daniel Liden (Demon Cleaner, Dozer), and engineer/bassist Bengt Backe, the band operates like a Swedish Queens of the Stoneage, featuring a revolving cast of fellow musicians who share a love of heavy fuzz rock and recently filled bongs. Guest so far include members of Dozer, Stonewall Orchestra, Lowrider, the Truckfighters, Payback and a handful of others who happened to wander into the studio. And let me tell you, for a loose alliance of friends getting together to lay down a vibe, they're good. Really good. This is stoner rock the way it's supposed to be, big and loud, exuberant and loaded with enough muscle to make Arnold look like a poser on a fifth grade playground.
Coming to us from the fine folks at Small Stone Recordings, perhaps the world's finest purveyor of stoner hard rock, Agents of Ahriman is a beast of an album. "Highway Officer," sets us in motion, an atypical riff shrieking out to a stuttering start until that bass comes rolling in. Instantly accessible and so hook-laden it could take a trout fishing championship. And actually, that's one problem I have with the genre, not the music, just the name. Stoner rock has become a catch-all for all heavy, seventies inspired, riff-monster rock. The problem is, it just don't fit anymore. What I'm hearing right now has more in common with any number of great '70's riff metal bands than many droning stoner releases like Sleep or High on Fire. We need a new name, something that captures the passion, intensity, high energy and honesty with which these boys rip through their riffs. Something that captures the groove and the fun these guys are obliviously having. This is rock and roll, baby. Just great heavy, party-hard rock and roll.
"Treehorn," follows next with a vocal hook as good as any you'll find in the genre, sung over a pulsating bass line and shimmering guitar. That's right, shimmering guitar, not a word you're used to hearing in a stoner rock review. But that's one of the things Greenleaf do so well. While still rooted in the classic riff-mighty sound of the genre, the boys aren't afraid to mix it up a little, throw a few twists and new directions at you. And the album is better for it.
"Alishan Mountain," with it's underlying organ hiding below the bottom heavy riff leading to the soaring chorus sounds like it could have been a lost track from BTO's Not Fragile album, and I mean that in the best possible way. While remembered mostly for it's hits, BTO could belt out some fierce seventies blue-collar rock, and Greenleaf are following suit, stepping in line behind the old masters, infusing their riffs with their own fire and belief in rock. "Black Tar," follows suit, Grand Funk for the new millennium, power-driving rock and roll, with a bass line so heavy it'll clear all the shit from your colon. Again, you can see that boys aren't afraid to break it up and down in terms of dynamic.
Following "The Lake," an intensely melodic rocker, the title track "Agents of Ahriman," brings in the first true hint of a spaced-out stoner vibe, a distorted bass pulsing out the heartbeat until the cosmically heavy guitars rip in. This is Greenleaf's most ambitious effort, their epic du force, a moment of stoner prog. To cut the bullshit, this is their moment of greatness. Then, lest you think the boys are starting to take themselves too seriously, "Ride Another Highway," roars back, a pounding, thundering slab of straight out '70's metal, updated and injected for a new day. And so the album goes, straight to the closer, the very strong "Stray Bullit Woman." The boys got it covered.
So what's a guy to do. Well, we at The Ripple have decided if you can't beat em, join em. We're currently looking around Central Stockholm, digging through the district of Norrmalm, trying to find a new loft to set up shop. Yep, we're moving to Sweden, committed to basking for the rest of our days in the greatness of hockey and music. And meatballs. But if we can't actually convince our wives to pack up their lives and move, then I guess we'll just have to console ourselves with the NHL Center Ice and the great flood of Swedish bands that keep coming our way.
- RacerJune 20, 2008http://ripplemusic.blogspot.com
Formed by Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa, Greenleaf is among the best damn beer-drinking stoner rock you'll ever hear out of Sweden. Yes, Sweden, land of death metal, ABBA, and rubbery fish candy.
You'd just as easily peg the scruffy-looking foursome as Virginian, as on Agents Of Ahriman, they sound more Southern than the South themselves. Unfazed at the prospect of writing big, meaty riffs that bring to mind all kinds of '70s rock exuberance, Greenleaf embrace the this kind of super-catchy, unabashedly masculine songwriting (see "Alishan Mountain").
They're definitely treading on worn ground, or a well-paved road, as many of their songs seem to revolve around highways ("Highway Officer," "Black Tar," "Ride Another Highway"), but Agents sounds fresh and authentic. If anything, their approach, free of any tongue-in-cheek, self-conscious hipsterism, may be their greatest asset. That and supreme songwriting ability.
-Patrick SlevinOctober 16th, 2007www.theaquarian.com
These guys came online in 1999, put one out back in '03, and are serving it up again. Membership includes guys who banged the drum in other quality "stonerrock" bands concurrently - hey, it's still true - there are a couple Truckfighters and a Dozer involved, and other cool guys who hit the mark with Greenleaf on the top of the band (if not career) resume. Greenleaf (ahem, pot?) fuse the roiling generator party bottom-end/vibe that burbled up from Kyuss and the MeteorCity label with tasteful classicist '70s Euro-hard attack rock. Tasteful? Sure; well-written, played for the song, and melodically interesting. Like what? Well, you can't ignore Deep Purple and Uriah Heep's mid-'70s records when mapping this stuff as well as a bunch stuff that never charted high but sold 50 - 200 thousand here (Bloodrock) and there (Atomic Rooster) back when Ford filled in for Dick Nixon right after we slunk away from Viet Nam.
Hell, it's not so different from "grunge," if those jokers hadn't been so sheepish about the UFO and Rainbow records and ditched the "we-do-like-punk!-honest! " part. Full-on hard rock with a natural-sounding singer and lessons learned from Cream and Zep, defolked and bumped up into the kinda thing that opened for Black Sabbath and Bloodwyn Pig in '74. To pair'm with Monster Magnet's a no-brainer. That they share gig/psychic space with Grand Magus, The Quill, Firebird, and Spiritual Beggars is a matter of geo-politics and good taste. Shit, you could have'm on a Clutch/Year Long Disaster bill and the teaming masses would holler and light their farts just the same. That's good. So's this. Lead rocker: First cut "Highway Officer." Cool atmospheric thing: "Sleep Paralysis." Best Freedom Rock moment: "The Lake." Spin with Generous Maria, Deep Purple, labelmates Sasquatch and Mos Generator, Soundgarden, Mountain, and QOTSA.
Craig RegalaSeptember 9th, 2007www.lollipop.com
Leicester Bangs (UK)
After all these years there are still those who, immersed in a misguided quest for continual innovation, completely miss the point about Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple et al. Nonetheless, it remains fact that post-Apocalypse the only things left intact will be rats, cockroaches and metal bands. I’m not clear what will protect the first two, but without doubt heavy rock has developed a unique survival mechanism which has sustained it through the ups and downs of over forty years of changing musical fashions and which would likely be more than adequate protection against nuclear (or even sonic) attack. Put simply, it knows when enough is enough and its time to get back to basics and rediscover those primal strengths that make it so irrepressible. When its current trends turn stagnant or stale, rock has a proven capacity to reach back inside itself, reassert the rhythms and riffs that it learnt from its forebears, and throw up a whole new generation to carry the baton. The first half decade of the new century restored much of the confidence in metal that nu-metal had dispelled, and a dazzling array of fresh sounds and ideas poured forth from the likes of In Flames, Killswitch Engage, System of A Down, Slipknot, God Forbid, Trivium and more. The last two years however have seen the scene flounder, once more flooded with imitators and pretenders, with many former contenders becoming artistically bankrupt as they explore new ways of cracking the lucrative early teen market. It should come as no surprise to seasoned observers therefore that the smart money (led by the authoritative Metal Hammer) is confidently predicting the rise of a new generation of Southern Gothic, drawing its inspiration from a range of influences which include both Lynyrd Skynyrd and Pantera alongside the aforementioned old masters. Emergent names including Black Stone Cherry, Scissorfight, Artemis Pyledriver and He Is Legend are coming forward to stand alongside older hands such as Clutch, Black Label Society, Nashville Pussy and, of course, Phil Anselmo’s revitalised Down. Overall these bands cover a huge area sound-wise, but what unites them is their commitment to the timeless power of tight rhythm, dirty sludgy guitars, strong purposeful vocals and an outlaw mentality, all turned up to 11 or more. They’re not necessarily singing to the same hymn sheet, but they are bound by a conviction that rock’s past has very much a living stake in its future.
In this context Detroit’s Small Stone label, currently flying under the mainstream radar here in the UK could become a genuinely important player. Not only does it specialise in a genre gently nosing its way back into the spotlight, but it also has the quality catalogue to back its claims. Several months ago this site gave a glowing thumbs-up to new releases from Sasquatch and The Glasspack, and made mention of several of their stablemates including Five Horse Johnson and Sons of Otis who have been making waves on the club circuit over here. These bands are bereft of frills and pretensions, and ally themselves unashamedly with the oft-despised 70’s breed of early metal giants, but play with a sturm und drang which sets them apart.
This month’s catch from Small Stone certainly doesn’t disappoint either. Seattle veterans Mos Generator are stripped down heavy rock and roll, a three piece who owe no small debt to Mountain and whose affection for mid-period Sabbath is present throughout. Vocalist / guitarist Tony Reed veers so close to Ozzy’s upper range that it seems to call for a scream of ‘you bastards’ at every refrain. Like the Sabs they temper the onslaught with psychedelic flourishes (on Acapulco Gold, for instance), but they never stray far from the essential groove, and nor do they need to. The playing on ‘Songs for Future Gods’ is lean and disciplined throughout and the songs are well constructed. The band succeed, like their peers, in making ‘old’ music sound vital to new ears.
Greenleaf’s ‘Agents of Ahriman’ is heavier still. Built around the nucleus of guitarist Tommi Holopa and bassist / engineer Bengt Backe this stoner supergroup is further made up of a cast of guest musicians including Tommi’s former Dozer bandmate Erik Backwall on drums and Oskar Cedermalm (Truckfighters) on the bulk of singing duties. The album is nine tracks of full-on, uncompromising, riff-orientated metal with a massive and brutal wall of sound hammering it home. ‘Black Tar’, four tracks in, is little short of a masterclass in how to do this stuff properly. Having been around since 1999 Greenleaf have concentrated less on polishing their sound and more on adding layers of extra coating to toughen and preserve it. There’s no mystery where the influences and inspirations come from but here they’ve produced a collection of some distinction.
Small Stone may or may not be the next Vertigo, Capricorn, Roadrunner or whatever, but for now they have a stable of particularly interesting acts, all proudly displaying their metal collective consciousness while bringing to it an edge which is very much of the moment and positively roars out for attention.
Neil B.January, 2008www.leicesterbangs.co.uk
Rock And Roll And Meandering Nonsense
Despite all of its tackiness, the 70s seem to have provided quite a well to which bands seem to return again and again, some for a small drink before moving on and others for their very sustenance. Sweden's Greenleaf is among the latter group.
Stoner bands and their 70s hard rock influence may seem to be coming out of the woodwork these days, but while Greenleaf is among them, they stand just enough taller to be worth noting over many of the others. They do tap into the rich riff-laden grooves of early Wishbone Ash and fill out their sound with some heavy organ in the Deep Purple mold. Often the basic but catchy riffs are reminiscent of Ace Frehley. They even have that Zeppelin-like ability to push rather than punch. All of this would only add up to so much though if they were just a mix of the best 70s hard rock had to offer, but Greenleaf offers more. They have filtered the 70s through their own eyes, giving it their younger, hungrier excitement. Unlike their influences, they haven't become big and bloated and they offer a glimpse into perhaps what some of the great rock acts of the 70s were like before they signed their big contracts.
Greenleaf do not go down the road of extensive digital effects that plagues so many bands today. Instead they rely on the rich, full sounds of the old analog equipment. Not only does this tie into their retro leanings, it also helps beef up their sound. Their vintage sound with a youthful energy moves smoothly from bold to subtle and their quieter sections never feel like they're taking a break so much as laying plans for the passages to come. A superficial listen might assume that Greenleaf is merely a revival, but they're actually very much a modern band with an appreciation not for the past as a whole, but for the best the past has to offer.
Bob VinylNovember 20th, 2007rnrnonsense.toomanyvoices.com
The Cutting Edge
It's been a couple years since our review of Secret Alphabets ('03) but this Swedish five-piece and their on again/off again side project Greenleaf are back ripping out Kiss power chords with Deep Purple heaviness. Recently stoner head and Dozer guitarist, Tommi Holappa, has been hanging out with his buddies from Lowrider and Truckfighter. Together they have been logging some serious hours in the basement listening to their classic rock LPs. Just reading through the song titles is like flipping through album jackets, yet once the laser hits the disc there's no question where they are coming from. Opening cut "Highway Officer" has Jon Lord keys and Blackmore riffs that bulge at the seams. Then there's the Budgie/ Soundgarden-inspired "Ride Another Highway" and the layered B.O.C. manufactured "Alishan Mountain." The guitar is thick and dense with a rumbling bottom end that actually shakes the car when fully cranked. Slice it up anyway you want, it's still sonic hard rock with tasty licks.
The band doesn't forget their stoner roots as they mix up psychedelic fuzz with Fu Manchu clarity. Tracks like "Treehorn" and organ-heavy "The Lake" have that melodic density of Hawkwind colored with shades of Steppenwolf. The amalgamation of singers, three in all, gives the band the luxury of matching the right vocalist to the song. That comes into great effect on the slow, progressive build in title track "Agents Of Ahriman" where the voice creeps up on a chanting bridge then launches into a choral wail with guitar, Hammond and drums pummeling away in the final moments. "Sleep Paralysis" is very similar in that it slithers through a bass-driven, ballad-like intro with Door's like flashbacks (in the vocal) then cascades into an all out metallic crescendo. It ends the same way it started; bringing the bass back into focus followed by a cavalcade of instrumentation. Saving the best for last is the Kiss-meets-The Black Keys "Stray Bullet Woman." An old time blues riff and garage drumbeat pick up where "God Of Thunder" left off as it explodes into massive arena rock at full tilt.
Todd K SmithNovember 5th, 2007www.thecutting-edge.net
Penny Black Music (UK)
It's pretty blunt, in both senses of the word â€“ you name your band Greenleaf, and you've irrevocably bumper-stickered your metaphorical pick-up truck with the slogan â€śI brake for skunk and loud guitarsâ€ť. Yup â€“ Greenleaf are a stoner rock band.
They're a band with pedigree, though â€“ you could even consider them a 'supergroup', containing members of second-wave stoner outfits like Dozer and Demon Cleaner, and a roster of incidental guest appearances by other nod-rock notables. 'Agents Of Ahriman' is their third full-length offering, albeit after a four year hiatus; these guys are experienced, in the Hendrix sense of the word. They make music that sounds like it's been dragged back comatose from the far slopes of Marijuana Mountain, with scenic detours through Sky Valley and across the Peyote Plains.
Saying a stoner band sound like Black Sabbath is like saying water is wet â€“ obvious to the point of being unnecessary. But water alone, while it satisfies a basic thirst, is not an exciting thing to drink day after day; you want some flavour, a bit of zing, something to refresh the tongue as well as the body. There are hundreds of bottled-water stoner bands out there, cranking out riffs that Tony Iommi could probably sue over without any fear of losing, and doing little more than that. To their credit, Greenleaf go the extra mile, digging down deeper into the psychedelic rumble of 70's metal to find the beating heart, and re-routing the veins to pump new blood into an old old sound.
How exactly they've done it is hard to define â€“ to reach out and point to any specific riff or solo or lyric and say â€śthere, that's the magic bitâ€ť is beyond me, because the innovation here isn't sonic. Greenleaf haven't tried to reinvent the wheel, which would have been a fruitless exercise at best. Instead, they've clambered inside the skin of the style, wearing it like an Aztec priest dancing in the flayed skin of a sacrificial victim. It's an energy thing, a commitment, a passion. 'Agents Of Ahriman' isn't a homage or a pastiche; it's an album by a band who know and love a style so well that they couldn't play anything else. They don't need to copy anyone â€“ it's in their bloodstreams, saturated, ubiquitous.
But they're not taking themselves too seriously, either. That album title, for instance â€“ Ahriman is the name of the destructive and materialist principle in the shrinking yet persistent ancient Middle Eastern religion of Zoroastrianism. Which sounds a little pretentious, until you realise that Ahriman is the Zoroastrian analogue for Satan, and that Greenleaf are nodding back at the thematic imagery of heavy metal with a wry grin on their faces.
Don't read too much into it, though. The only thing that Greenleaf worship is the power of an amped-up guitar riff, and that worship is a ceremony based around participation, a celebration and indulgence of all that is redemptive and escapist about classic heavy metal. They say there's nothing new under the sun ... but the sun can cast old familiar objects in an entirely new light when it shines from a new angle. Stoner rock just turned over a new leaf.
Paul Raven October 29th, 2007www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk
Rock Sound (UK)
Described as a stoner rock supergroup - we are talking C-list supergroup, not the likes of John Garcia, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri all back in a room together here - Greenleaf features members of Dozer, Demon Cleaner and Truckfighters and the result marvellous, laidback, smoke-friendly, retro-groove rock baby. In essence 'Agents Of Ahriman' ends up sounding like some Queens Of The Stoneage (when they didn't suck corporate cock) meeting Hawkwind in a time-consortium. It's hardly pioneering, but it's entertaining enough to warrant hitting the bong and sitting around getting engrossed in its whirling mass of smoked out vibes for an evening.
FOR FANS OF: Kyuss, Nebula, Suns Of Thunder, Spiritual Beggars.
Lewis FraserNovember, 2007 (No. 102)www.rock-sound.net
All Music Guide
A whole four years after their last release (003's Secret Alphabets) left curious listeners intrigued and somewhat confused, here comes Sweden's Greenleaf -- the sometime side project that won't die, but sure takes its sweet-ass time to come on back -- with another collection of stoner and classic rock action titled Agents of Ahriman. Here again, the group seems to feature as many "core" musicians (most notably Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa) as invited guests (including members of Lowrider and Truckfighters), and this goes some way towards explaining both the loosely arranged, almost improvisational feel to many of their fuzz rock explorations, as well as the vast array of retro-rock styles visited from start to finish. To wit, give Agents of Ahriman just a cursory glance, and you'll identify several shades of Deep Purple and lunar phases of Steppenwolf ("Black Tar," "The Lake"); Ozzy vocal imitations ("Highway Officer") and screaming Monster Magnet intensity ("Ride Another Highway"); Pink Floyd-like space meddling ("Sleep Paralysis"), and Hawkwind-esque interstellar droning ("Treehorn"); Ram Jam-style blues crust ("Stray Bullit Woman") and Sir Lord Baltimore-type psych guitar gone "Bolero" (the title track), and lots of latter day Blue Öyster Cult in the catchy licks and vocal lines of "Alishan Mountain." In the end, though, the one thing that all of these songs have in common is a rather basic, lo-fi production strategy (which suits them rather well, don't you know?), and the aforementioned ability to confuse and intrigue in virtually equal measures. Obviously, none of this bodes very well for Greenleaf to attract a dedicated fan contingent, but, if past form repeats itself, it's not like that the group will be coming back this way again any time soon, either.
Eduardo RivadaviaOctober 20th, 2007allmusic.com
How many times have you heard someone say that a stoner band sounds like Black Sabbath? Probably quite a bit and this band is no exception. Yet the Sabbath comparisons are just the beginning of what these guys have put together. There's a healthy dose of Sabbath say circa 1972 that's present on much of this disc.
There's also a strong touch of Deep Purple particularly in the rhythms at times. Yet it's not so much who your influences are as it is how you interpret them and what you bring to the table. That last part is where I think this band shows some real promise. The opener "Highway Officer" comes busting on with a big sound complete with fuzzy riffs, pounding drums and even some organ bursts thrown in for good measure. "Treehorn" is up next and this is where we begin to see some of what this band can really do. They not only manage the pace, they actually completely control it. Like the classic 70's bands they obviously love, they manage make every little part of the song count. Another real standout is "Black Tar" which at first sounds a little like Deep Purple's "Strange kind of woman". However they toss in some nicely muted vocals and riffs so big they flow over you as the band easily brings them on and then takes them back down.
Two things really help make this album better than many other stoner bands. One is the amount of hooks and the knowledge of when and where to use them. So many bands of this genre tend to start songs strong, but just don't have a grasp on how much they need to do to keep the momentum going. Greenleaf make it sound easy as they plow, plod, rip and even glide through many different sound changes. The second thing in their favor and this is the one that really makes them important in my opinion and that's the ability to put emotion into the music. Too many bands know how to play big fuzzy, distorted riffs yet it just sounds hollow if you can't put emotion throughout. These guys have a good handle on their songwriting for the most part and know how to make the songs really just ring true with genuine emotion. Now there are a few times when there may be some gaps on songs that could have been handled slightly better. Yet overall this is a tremendous effort that incorporates some fine classic early metal influences with more modern vocals and has some rock sensibilities thrown in for good measure. It's under forty minutes total running time yet the amount of sounds and textures present make it seem longer or perhaps it's just that I felt like I got so much out of the entire album. This one is certainly worth checking out.
PITRIFF RATING - 8/10 - The sound is firmly found in the 1970’s yet they still manage to sound fairly fresh. Lots of hooks and a good sense of timing and pace help to set Greenleaf apart from much of the pack of today’ stoner rock bands.
Metal MarkSeptember 18, 2007www.pitriff.com
Greenleaf is an on-again/off-again musical collaborative that has the cream of the Swedish desert metal crop in its ever-changing roster. It’s been awhile - far too long, in fact – but Tommi, Bengt and co. are back with the excellent follow-up to ‘03’s ‘Secret Alphabets.
Formed in the sunset years of the stoner/desert 1992-02 decade back in 1999, the Greenleaf nucleus now seems to consist of Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa and bassist/engineer to the stars, Bengt Backe (sorry dude, no umlaut). After 8 years or so, they seem to be in it for the long haul, putting out the occasional album that keeps just enough of the stoner/70s classic rock sound to be familiar, with just enough changes to keep it interesting.
This time around guests include Peder “Lowrider/I Are Droid” Bergstrand and Oskar Cedermalm from Truckfighters, with Jocke Ahslund contributing some absolutely essential Hammond organ. The sound is desertastic, a sativan mix of contemporary Swedish fuzz and 70s FM greatness. The production boasts lots o’ reverb, for a mid-70s stadium vibe that’s a bit apart from previous efforts. Special treats include the driving desert psychedelia of ‘The Lake,’ the unusual, emotional ‘Sleep Paralysis,’ and the skewed 70s hard FM blues of ‘Stray Bullit Woman.’ Solid.
These players are simply too talented to ignore, with so many chops, riffs, and so much melody that they could give ‘em out to musically impoverished nations around the world and still have enough left over to keep Sweden at the top of the heap. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Ahriman is the Zoroastrian personification of the devil.
Kevin McHugh September 19, 2007www.hellridemusic.com
As they're not so much a group as a collaborative effort among like-minded bands, Greenleaf has the luxury of doing things on their own schedule. Hence the four years between 2004's Secret Alphabets and the band's third offering, Agents of Ahriman.
While the core of Greenleaf has now been whittled down to Dozer's Tommi Holappa and engineer/bassist Bengt BĂ¤cke, and many of the supporting characters from Secret Alphabets are gone, the Greenleaf sound is still intact. Regardless of the â€śstoner rockâ€ť tag that's applied to the day-job bands, the heart of Agents of Ahriman, like predecessors Secret Alphabets and 2001's Revolution Rock, beats with a classic rock beat.
It's a warmer beat this time around, mostly due a drier production and the liberal use of Hammond organ (like duct tape and bacon, you can't go wrong with Hammond â€“ it makes everything better, even a somewhat lackluster song like â€śAlishan Mountainâ€ť). Handling vocals is primarily Truckfighters' Oskar Cedermalm, whose plaintive voice creates a sense of urgency to excellent songs like â€śHighway Officer,â€ť â€śTreehorn,â€ť the title track, and â€śStray Bullet Woman.â€ť Elsewhere, Lowrider's Peder Bergstrand adds some grit to â€śBlack Tarâ€ť and The Awesome Machine/Mother Misery's John Hermansen delivers a sonic ass kicking on â€śRide Another Highway.â€ť The more Dozer-esque traits of Secret Alphabets are less apparent here, save for "Sleep Paralysis." But hell, that's another recommended song, so it didn't bother me in the slightest.
Agents falters in only a couple of spots, mainly when they try for a mellower, more sensitive sound (the aforementioned â€śAlishan Mountainâ€ť and â€śThe Lake,â€ť which sounds like some bong-addled take on â€śAge of Aquariusâ€ť), but the majority of the album is a winner. As a on-again, off-again group, Greenleaf rocks harder and more consistently than most full-time bands. If you liked the previous two, you'll like this one.
John PegoraroMay 26th, 2007www.stonerrock.com
Daredevil Records (Germany)
Greenleaf is another supergroup in the stoner rock scene. The band was formed 1999 by Tommi from DOZER and Daniel from DEMON CLEANER, later DOZER and Bengt BĂ¤cke, well-known engineer in the Stoner Rock scene. With a lot of following from the Nordic Stoner Rock scene, like members of STONEWALL NOISE ORCHESTRA, LOWRIDER or DOZER, they released two great records, especially their debut REVOLUTION ROCK was a mighty output. Now they are back with a new record and a lot of great musicians too! Oskar from TRUCKFIGHTERS did some vocals and the band did a step forward, away from the classic Stoner Rock to the 70`s rock movement. But donâ€™t worry! GREENLEAF is still GREENLEAF! Highlight is the song RIDE ANOTHER HIGHWAY with John Hermansen from MOTHER MISERY / STONEWALL NOISE ORCHESTRA on vocals. A great Stoner Rock track which transfers some old Soundgarden feelings to nowadays. The opener HIGHWAY OFFICE is more a typical song, but with TREEHORN they wrote the first highlight on that record. Emotional, with a lot of feelings and a great groove. ALISHAN MOUNTAIN is again a little bit to insignificant and a little disappointment. But BLACK TAR, sung by Peder Bergstrand with some deep, rough voice like Mark Lanegan, is a great track! THE LAKE is very close on some QOTSA material and another highlight on that record. SLEEP PARALYSIS is one of the best GREENLEAF songs so far and very untypical for their sound. Sure, the middle part is 100% Greenleaf, but the beginning and the verse is a great emotional trip. AWESOME! And with STRAY BULLIT WOMAN they close this record with a great 70`s sounding homage to the leading bands of that area! All in all a mighty record, but 2 songs are real fillers and all in all too short. But if you like Stoner Rock, this is a must have!
Music: Stoner Rock
Info: 9 Songs / 37 minutes