RockmusicRaider is having Swedish Rock and Metal week. We just finished a newsflash on Endbite, now hitting up on the folks from Sideburn and their 2015 album Evil or Divine. Not to be confused by the Swiss Metal band of the same name, by the way.
Sideburn are part of a very significant rock and metal community active in the land of stellar blond chicks, even better breakfast, ever behaving citizens and stringent speed controls. Not so? Damn! So, the neat surface hides this pretty exciting underground culture? Way cool that. Some big names too: Draconian, Opeth, Meshuggah, Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy – and many more.
The band formed back in 1997 with Morgan Zocek and Tor Pentèn in a club in Stockholm. Not surprisingly, their main influences were already set back then. The old style Hard Rock and Metal from Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath (for sure…) and the likes. Now some 20 years later, with five major releases and a score of EPs under their belt, Sideburn are still going strong. Evil or Divine is their last in line. Now this here album newly features Dimitri Keiski on vocals. Only beneficial for the band on quality in my book for sure.
Sideburn seem to be underrated at first, but then you find out that they’re pretty much invisible on social networks and the internet at large. So, to me this needs serious improvement. I know that maintaining social networks sometimes sucks, but – hey – this is the modern world. They definitely need to come out of their cubbyhole into the bright world. Hiding away won’t increase the audience.
But you know what? I just love their old-school rock and metal. At first, Sideburn saddles us with this somewhat weird mix of Black Sabbath infused Doom and Heavy Metal straight from Iron Maiden. Throw some Sorcerer into the fray, like in The Shadow of the Inverted Cross and you about got the overall flavor of the tune these Swedes are presenting.
But this is only part of the story. ‘Cause this is what I thought after the first two tracks came on. Once they set up this very general taste of this #metal pottage, we get served with Progressive, Psychedelic and even Blues Metal elements that get you to a totally different plane. Now mind you, Evil or Divine presents itself in this underlying dark, kind of doomish robe, regardless of the style element they display. In fact, I have heard them called Stoner Metal, which in a way has some truth in it, but is funneling it down to simplicity a bit too much in my department.
Evil or Divinie is a complex and very skilled delivery that will require your attention. Because if you don’t, it will chip away at your brain until you give in. Sideburn still get their influences from the ’70s and ’80s, perhaps some of the early 90’s even and turn this into their own brand. And there is nothing wrong with that, as long as they use their influences skillfully. A number of bands already do exactly that. If you need a sanity check, just look up Dirty Sound Magnet and their excellent What Lies Behind. DSM shamelessly scavenge in old school Hard and Blues Rock’s backyard of the ’70s mainly, but produce their own batch of beer. Same modus operandi than Sideburn.
Now, to be frank, at first I feared Evil or Divine would saddle us with a Sabbath clone, just look at the most recent pastime of some in the band. Then there is always their former remarkable album IV Monument to reckon with and continually raising its head in the background. And I was not so sure if this new concoction would be able to beat it. But fear not! To our good fortune these guys rock along some very old-fashioned Hard Rock and Metal trends that it is a pleasure to behold. And they have left nothing of their power behind, if anything this one adds to it nicely.
But Evil or Divine only contains 7 tracks? Now first, this is a good thing. The limited number of tracks stands for invested time and I mean invested quality time into a disc of overall some 45 minutes of airplay. That is easily over 6 1/2 minutes per track. Which is again way over the new norm of some three minutes per track favored by the marketing fanatics. Now this can wreck the overall rating big time if some tracks start to suck. To their fortune, there is not much in filler material in this record. Albeit, some of the tracks are somewhat long-winded and you really need to give some of that your (very) patient nod until the good stuff appears.
When the first track Masters and Slaves started with its 13-ish kick off, I thought, well Black Sabbath lied to us and produced a very last record before the end. But don’t let appearances move you to false judgements. 3/4 along, this track kind of takes off and would make Iron Maiden proud, solo and all. Then the metal laden Sea of Sins kicks in with a vengeance. Again this weird mix between Black Sabbath and Sorcerer come to mind. This one is really straining Dimitri Keiski‘s vocal cords for the first time.
Now, you would think that they lost steam towards the second half of the disc, but – hells bells – The Day The Sun Died is just breathtakingly powerful. It is some sort of a hate/love affair, but turned out to get onto my preferred list. And at first the track comes along like weak barley water, the perfect WTF moment. But then this stellar doomish riff takes off out of nowhere rearranging your haircut, you start headbanging so hard.
Evil Ways kind of grungily moves through its metal landscape. This theme of ‘Solo meets Riff’ is just irresistible in there. Now finally, along comes Presence. And you wonder what kind of a bland slice of cheese is being presented to you. One can almost smell the smoke wading out of the studio. It smacks so much of the ’70s psychedelic bullshit we had to endure back in time. But then, this track kind of redeems itself when it unfolds its Doom Metal laden power …. in the second half, no kidding. Forsooth! In truth this is the weakest of the songs, but again not bad by itself.
Evil or Divine is not something you can just listen to, devour and forget. You need to let it sink in and really get to you. Take your time. For sure the fast and furious of the ever changing streaming playlist will think nothing of it. But then this album is not necessarily for them. And the band remains always true to its influences, this is one of these albums that cannot easily be classified into one genre or the other. Indeed, Sideburn show an affinity to their own sources and beliefs that is very visible in the tune that they present. And should you own a copy? Most definitely. Go for it and consume without moderation. Well done, band. Great album!
And congrats, this record successfully made it onto the Intermittent Digest – Tome III.