Sideburn – Evil or Divine (2015) – Review

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RockmusicRaider is having Swedish Rock and Metal week. We just finished a newsflash on Endbite. And now we’re ready to hit the folks from Sideburn and their 2015 album Evil or Divine. Not to be confused with 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! In fact, the neat surface of this country hides this pretty exciting underground culture. 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. A brand of rock, pregnant with old-style Hard Rock and Metal from the likes of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath (for sure…).

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 latest offering to their fan community. And it features Dimitri Keiski on vocals. A good choice, by the way, and only beneficial to the quality of this tasty disk.

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, here is one thing that 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?

RockmusicRaider Review - Sideburn 2015

I just love their old-school rock and metal. At first, Sideburn saddles us with this somewhat weird mix of Sabbath-infused doom, and Heavy Metal straight from Iron Maiden. And sometimes you might hear some Sorcerer – fellow Swedes as well – hitting it up in the background.

But let the heavy name-dropping stop for a minute. All those generalities aside, Sideburn also serves the avid fan with Progressive, Psychedelic, and even Blues Rock and Metal. And that, with the aforementioned doom and heaviness, elevates the record to another plane of existence.

Sideburn 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. 

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 with some very old-fashioned Hard Rock and Metal that is a pleasure to behold. And they have left nothing of their power behind. If anything this one adds to it nicely.  

The limited number of tracks stands for invested time. And I mean invested quality time into a disk of overall some 45 minutes of airplay. And this 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 filler material in this record.

When the first track Masters and Slaves started with its mighty kickoff, 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 cloud yer judgments. Some three quarters 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 comes to mind. And 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 no. The Day The Sun Died is just breathtakingly powerful. And at first, the track comes along like weak barley water. But then, this stellar doomy riff takes off out of nowhere, and that takes you for a hard ride straight to the end.

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.

Ultimately though, 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.

Well done, band. Great album!

Ed’s note: This record successfully made it onto the Intermittent Digest – Tome III. Also, you might want to check this one out. Another one of Zocek’s projects.

Record Rating: 8/10 | Label: Metalville Records | Web: Facebook
Release date: 22 May 2015

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