Review Summary: Greenleaf find the middle ground between infectious stoner rock tunes and slow-burning psychedelic jams on their most accomplished album to date.
Swedish heavy rock scene has been on a roll for over a decade. Aside from delivering excellent riff-oriented rock, such notable acts as Truckfighters, Lowrider and Dozer managed to come up with their own vision of music that boasts instantly recognizable features which include: dense drumming, heavily distorted bass lines, fuzzed-out guitar riffs and an aptitude for arresting melodies. All these constituents make for an admirably dense desert rock sound that distinctively characterizes so-called Swedish vibe. Borlange-based Greenleaf have always been committed to this style releasing three strong albums over the course of the last decade as well as experiencing numerous line-up changes in the process. Current Greenleaf comprise of three former musicians of Dozer accompanied by bassist Bengt Bäcke and singer Oskar Cedarmalm of Truckfighters fame. Given the fact that Bäcke has engineered plenty of Swedish stoner rock records, everything stays in the family with the quintet basically being a new incarnation of formidable Dozer.
In comparison to bluesy Agents of Ahriman
from 2007, Nest of Vipers
sounds grittier, punchier and more bombastic somewhat recalling the mix of the last Dozer outing with the open-air feeling of instruments, densely cascading drum beats and massive bass lines. The guitar work is appropriately groovy courtesy of immensely talented Tommi Holappa and Johan Rockner whose riffs range from boisterous to meditative. Holappa's soloing is tailor made for this kind of music striking an ideal balance between punchiness and flamboyance. The top-notch musicianship goes in line with the diverse song craft that captures the group finding the middle ground between direct, hook-driven tunes and slow-burning psychedelic jams.
A multitude of highlights includes infectious “Lilith” which relies on swift transitions making their way to a mellowed-out chorus that revolves around Cedarmalm's splendid vocal harmonies. “Dreamcatcher” proves equally irresistible with its powerful stomping rhythms in the verse leading to a superbly harmonized guitar onslaught in the song's captivating finale. In contrast, “Sunken Ships” interweaves breezy guitar work and powerhouse bass solo with enticing falsetto croons of Lowrider's Peder Bergstrand to startling effect. While these songs might be more instantly memorable, the actual selling point of Nest of Vipers
lies with its lengthier brilliantly hypnotic cuts. Remarkably sustained “Tree of Life” enigmatically unravels only to climax in the vortex of rollicking riffs, while constantly evolving “At the Helm” takes its slow-burning guitar work and blends it with retro keys and Cedarmalm's most alluring vocal performance. The title track works as an icing on the cake utilizing unrecognisably vicious crooning of Dozer's Fredrik Nordin into an ambitious, progressive inclined instrumentation.
Even though several songs are devoid of apparent remarkable qualities, the strong points of Nest of Vipers
clearly surpass the achievements of most other stoner rock bands working today. The album most definitely showcases Greenleaf at the top of their game serving as an epitome of everything that the greatest Swedish heavy rock has to offer.