Grunge Rock has been on our minds time and again at the RMR HQ. Even Nirvana found its way onto our review pipe a few times and rightly so. Even if we had some reservations about those iconic records that Dave Grohl and Courtney Love would certainly both object to.
You’ll for sure find a great many wannabe soundalikes out there. Bands that either want to surf that still tangible wave of dirty rock or just simply wish to keep the movement alive and kicking.
Now, we’re not suggesting that Am Samstag1) here are a Nirvana clone, even if they covered the latter’s track School back in 2019. But they – for sure – have typical Grunge Rock in their blood. With a dose of Punk Rock very high on their style agenda and Psych as a close second. And it shows at every corner of their new record Dualism. In fact, their style sports some juicy mix of (the early works of) Patti Smith and the aforementioned Nirvana. So, how on earth could the crusty RMR crew resist some grimy rock that comes with a parental advisory label to boot? ‘Xactly. We can’t.
To solidify their claim on their chosen genre, Am Samstag somehow convinced Jack Endino to act as their producer for Dualism. For those not in the know, Endino from Seattle is closely and somewhat traditionally associated with the grunge movement. He famously worked with big names like the aforementioned Nirvana, Mudhoney, or – again – Soundgarden to pretty snazzy success. And given his (strongly hinted) association with Sub Pop Records, I kinda wondered why this Swiss band is not signed to them directly.
And not quite unexpectedly, the evil dwarf on their album art already flips me the finger somewhat bad. But, I guess we asked for it. Shouldn’t have stepped into the grungy punk multiverse, right? But redemption follows quickly. Because true to their credo, the first track Pills and Wine takes no prisoners. This is indeed that grungy grime and grit the crew here was looking for.
Driven by the scratchy and often gravelly voice of Gabriela Varela, the band forges that typical picture of a Punk Rock band gone Pacific North West. And truly so, you get the bare bones only. Varela as the guitarist/vocalist, bassist Stephane Grand, and stick destroyer Baptiste Maier. That’s it, no further accouterments or other cozy elements that could possibly dilute that rough-hewn message rumbling towards you like some rock avalanche from the Swiss alps.
And Dualism indeed contains some pretty fine cuts. The aforementioned first track is already memorable, of course. And it will sound absolutely great on stage, make no mistake. But Burn Notre Dame, Hardly Wait, and Meatballs also deserve considerable credit. The RMR review committee even signaled forgiveness because the latter is a recycled version of a song published earlier. Now, if you’re in need for some rough firepower, then head straight to Auf Wiedersehen. True, some of that is similar to the first track, yet this is the installment that probably gets you most of the essence of that band. And didn’t I appreciate that skeleton-style punky reference to some early Tiamat.2)
Unfortunately, some tracklist stuffing happened as well. Often this is a noob-ish mistake when young bands3) throw anything they can onto that first disk. Dualism absolutely rocks on a fair number of tracks. Yet, some of those
could should have been sent to the oubliette. And I know of course that there is a lot of anger in a punkish heart. Yet, some restraint would have helped quality. Or in other words, keep yer record punkishly short, the message will be that more brutal.
Finally however, Am Samstag are a talented bunch and I fully understand why Endino latched on to them. Dualism is this raw grunge record that we searched for far and wide for eons and finally discovered in Europe. Rough-hewn, full of grit, spitty anger, totally powerful, and filled to the brim with delicious musical prowess. It makes you yearn for the return of old and long-gone masters. And whilst this is impossible, Am Samstag stand proud to take over. Grunge and Punk Rock are alive and kicking again.