Review Summary: Starting anew
Greenleaf's previous record, Nest Of Vipers
was an amazing blend of powerful grooves and slick melodies. The efforts paid off by combining the band's musical prowess with Truckfighters' bassist Oskar's great, unmistakable voice. Each track had its own thing going and none overstayed its welcome. However, mastermind Tommi Holappa (also of Swedish stoner legends, Dozer) started anew last year by making some lineup changes, which included a new frontman, Arvid Jonsson.
Since there was a four year gap in between Agents Of Ahriman
and the aforementioned record and new members came on board, nobody expected Trails & Passes
to see the light of day so soon. Fortunately, it doesn't fail to deliver. The cool, riff-based tunes still offer more or less the same fun, however, there is a slightly toned-down vibe overall that might have to do with Jonsson's addition. His elegant croon doesn't boast the usual raucous stoner snarl or even the powerful, emotive tone Oskar used, thus being closer at times to Black Keys' Dan Auerbach (especially on 'Our Mother Ash' or 'The Drum'). Nevertheless, the music has been somewhat adjusted as well. It's clear Holappa & Co. wanted to change things around and Arvid helps considerably.
Musically, the tracks are stripped this time of most additional layers such as organs or keyboards. Little tweaks are performed with guitar effects, but the vast majority of the LP is just headbanging fun from start to finish. 'Our Mother Ash' is a straightforward, energetic opener that continues their trend with some playful riffs and layered vocals. Even though it isn't as explosive as 'Jack Staff' for example, there's some shredding and a catchy chorus that instantly grabs your attention. The manic 'Equators' and the moody 'Ocean Deep' offer some interesting variations, but the best Trails & Passes
has to offer must be 'Depth Of The Sun'. A more introspective, mid-tempo cut that undoubtedly shares the most infectious melody here. The swaying chorus is backed by powerful drumming while the heavy verses prevent this from falling into the power ballad territory. Also, the gritty, eponymous closer is a dirty, hip shaking monster. The awesome bass line backed up by some matching power chords and pile driving drumming, helping Arvid knock out some of his best lines so far.
In the end, although this effort doesn't surpass Nest Of Vipers
, it's admirable the band decided to follow different paths. The music is more intricate and I am sure they spent a lot of time building the songs, however, simply put, the hooks were stronger last time. Still, everyone must appreciate the fact they chose to move on and not rehash the same formula. They will surely find the balance again to produce another classic seeing how consistent they are. Moreover, since Greenleaf became Holappa's main project at the moment, I am confident we will hear news sooner than we'd think of and expectations are very high since they have become one of the most entertaining stoner acts today.