Review Summary: An unpretentious and accessible sounding album. This is another interesting Scandinavian proposal.
“Suuliekki” is the third studio album of Sammal which was released in 2018. The line up on the album is Jan-Erik Kiviniemi, Jura Salmi, Juhani Laine, Lasse Ilano and Tuomas Karivaara.
Sammal is a progressive rock band from the peninsula of Scandinavia, from Finland. The band is settled in the Finnish port city of Turku. Sammal has been committed to retro prog sounds since their foundation around the year 2010, which, contrary to the supraregional trend of their homeland and the adjoining Scandinavian countries, doesn’t so much serve the symphonic prog, but instead relies on the rich 70’s heritage, called jazz, hard and psychedelic rock. So far, Sammal have released a self-titled debut studio album in 2013, an EP titled “Nº 2” in 2014, a second studio album “Myrskyvaroitus” in the following year and a third album with the name of “Suuliekki” was made three years later.
In spite of I always have been a big fan of the prog rock that comes from Scandinavia, mainly due to Kaipa, The Flower Kings, Anglagard, Anekdoten, Pain Of Salvation and Opeth, only to mention some of them, I must confess that this band, despite has already released three albums, had completely escaped from my radar, until some months ago.
All began when in May of 2018 when I participated in a prog tourney here on Sputnik, a tourney organised by our friend Fryday 13th, which usually happens every year, that I met contact with this band and album. For those who don’t know it, this tourney has the purpose that sixteen contestants can choose sixteen prog rock albums almost unknown. Those albums can’t have more than thirty ratings on Sputnik. The final objective is that in the end there is a winner album, after the elimination, round by round, of all the other participants. One of the contestants chose precisely “Suuliekki”, the third studio album of Sammal. So, as I mentioned before, it was in this context that I made my first contact with this band. Still, at the time, I was convinced that “Suuliekki” was their debut album. But as I said before, I was really wrong.
The band state that they devoted more time collecting new song material and incorporating new ideas into the songwriting prior to releasing “Suuliekki”. However, I’m not familiar with Sammal’s earlier two works to fully assess that statement and to recognize substantial differences. But, according to them, it seems that the music changed a bit.
Each song on the album comes across as a healthy blend of structure and improvisation. There’s also a consistent sense of fun and adventure all over the album. The material isn’t quite improvised, but it definitely isn’t overdone. As I listen to this album, I can almost hear the band trying out different ideas and seeing how they play with everyone else. Fortunately, they work really well. Each track is lively and fresh in ways that reminded me of fun and exciting 70’s rock. Folky elements inherent in many other Scandinavian bands’ works are less present here. Instead, Sammal’s songs sometimes are symphonic and melodic. I don’t understand a single word of the lyrics, but the voice of Janu Kiviniemi perfectly suits the music and both intonation and melody merge for an overall harmonious impression and I like it.
I had to rack my brains to come up with suitable comparisons with respect to Sammal’s music. Whilst this is also owing to my scarce knowledge of the Finnish progressive rock scene, it certainly is due to a large extent to Sammal’s originality. Their music by and large lacks the moody, dark and melancholic atmosphere, the stringency and the seriousness sometimes displayed by many Scandinavian bands such as Anglagard and Anekdoten. Instead, it’s rather laid-back, upbeat and here and there comes across with a wink. There are hints of Uriah Heep and Deep Purple for the more hard rock-oriented songs mentioned above. I can also see much psychedelic/space rock music, and it comes to my mind Hawkwind. In reality, there’s a bit of everything in “Suulliekki”, without the music becoming incoherent. The more I listened to the album, the more I liked it. It’s unpretentious, natural and accessible. It whets my appetite for more.
Conclusion: As I mentioned before, I was deeply impressed by the originality and the quality of “Suuliekki”. This is really a very good and nice album, a truly great surprise for me. I think we can say that we are in presence of a very honest and interesting proposal. But above all, I think the band has much potential to be developed. This is a band with strong influences of the hard rock and the psychedelic/space rock music, indeed. Listeners familiar with the bands mentioned above by me, will recognize their influences, but will be provided with something discrete, not with a mere clone. I hope that with this release, Sammal will step out of what I believe is still a small circle of insiders. They surely would deserve to be known by a wider audience. We’ll see it in the future. I’m very curious about the development of this band, really. Meanwhile, soon as I’ve time and opportunity I’m also very curious and interested to check their two first studio albums. Definitely, here we are in presence of nice prog music. I think Sammal deserves to be checked.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)