Tommi Holappa: Guitar
Bengt Bäcke: Bass
Oskar Cedermalm: Vocals
Johan Rockner: Guitar
Olle Mårthans: Drums
Fredrik Nordin : Vocals (Nest of Vipers)
Per Wiberg: Organ (Lilith and Nest of Vipers)
Peder Bergstrand: Vocals (Sunken Ships)
Drums,bass & guitars recorded at Studio Gröndahl by Karl Daniel Lidén.
Vocals recorded at Bombshelter studio by Oskar Cedermalm.
Mixed by Karl Daniel Lidén at Tri-Lamb Studio.
Mastered by Magnus Lindberg
Cover illustration by Gem (twizzlez.com)
Logo by Daniel Sjödin
Layout by Johan Rockner
Immediately as ‘Jack Staff’ comes in bouncing off the back of the guitar intro to be blown across the room by this formidable huge sound. Reminiscent of ‘Dozer' And ‘Demon Cleaner’ but that’s ok because Greenleaf is made out of members from those bands and more. Former and current members from ‘Lowrider’ and ‘Truckfighters’ to name a few. Tracks ‘Case of Fidelity’ and ‘Lilith’ sound a lot like they should be on ‘Dozer’ albums, especially the latter. But that again is ok too. With Tommi Holappa’s exciting and exuberant guitar riffs and licks he makes this album stand out from the rather crowded stoner scene for sheer quality of the song writing. Greenleaf truly are a super group of the Swedish underground.
‘Tree of Life’ has a fantastic psychedelic introduction and ‘Truckfighters’ vocalist Oskar Cederamalm gives his all during the verses with slightly dreamy sequences which lead into some sweet band wig out’s. The beauty of this album is that each song is an epic stoner masterpiece. Each song completely different from the next with epic structuring and assorted vibes and grooves. Just listen to ‘At the Helm’ clocking in at 5:47 with its wave smashing riffs, it is a serious contender to fight off a Kraken any day.
Now the most commercial track is the four minute perfect pop of ‘Sunken Ships’ which really does immediately remind me of the Foo Fighters at their stadium filling best. Oh well! The last track clocks in at over eight minutes and is called ‘Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins)’ and is my favourite by far. As a very typical and catchy opening guitar line of about four or five notes at most but with timing and pace to kill for. Real chilled out vocals and slow fuzzy breaks accompanied by Hammond splurges creating just the right atmosphere. Hazy, warm and stoned. This band Greenleaf, 12 years old and five corking albums under their belts.... not bad for a side project eh?
- John Slaymaker
With former members of Dozer and Lowrider (guitarist Tommi Holappan, drummer Olle Marthans from the former and Peder Bergstrand from the latter) and the name Green Leaf I was expecting a son of Sabbath/Kyuss type band but the Sabs are actually one band that doesn’t come to mind on these six tracks of melodic stoner tinged rock. There’s a nice loose, swinging vibe to the songs which evokes the spirit of classic 70s rock ala Deep Purple or Kiss, with a few Space Rock touches reminiscent of Monster Magnet (‘Tree of Life’ & the sprawling title track) and it must be said a bit of a QOTSA/Kyuss groove going on.
- Ian Pickens
Greenleaf are back with their first album since 2007's Agents of Ahriman and that is certainly a reason to be excited. They waste little time in proving that we should be excited as opener "Jack Staff" roars on with the infectious fuzz infused riffs that have come to define this band. That's not all because the same thick drumming, steady bass and driving vocals are still part of their sound as well. The album never lets up after that. The style here is not totally new because they call upon plenty of 70's proto-metal influences. However it isn't always what a band brings as it is how they present it. Greenleaf are actually proficient in both the skill and presentation departments. More than either of those is the fact that they have taken their influences and put their own spin on it. As I listen to tracks like the haunting "Tree of life", the mesmerizing "At the helm" and the instantly memorable "Sunken Ships" it dawned on me that they have developed their own sound and quite an impressive sound it is. "Nest of vipers" hears Greenleaf really stretching out a bit and with that they seem very confident in doing varying tempos and really broadening their range. This is an album that had me hooked right away and each additional play just had me getting into it more and more. This is one of my favorite bands in this style going today and this album just enforces that view.
- Metal Mark
More excellent feel good stoner rock full of great riffs, bad ass drum beats, and strange melancholy overtones from some of Sweden's finest. Seriously, I love this band but some of the vibes/moods that come off this music are...wow. Things are darker in Sweden sometimes huh? "At The Helm" is a favorite track...
Swedish stoner band Greenleaf is no stranger to churning out lengthy, quasi-metal jams during the course of its career. Initially formed as a side project by Tommi Holappa of Dozer, Greenleaf never strayed far from the template he had created with Dozer. With Dozer going on an official hiatus in 2009—and Greenleaf now featuring three of the four members of Dozer—it makes sense that Nest of Vipers blurs the line between the two projects. Nest of Vipers is Greenleaf’s fifth full-length album, and as such the group’s dynamics are all in sync. It doesn’t hurt that Holappa has spent years working with the members of Greenleaf in various projects, but the album boasts numerous contributions from other metal acts such as Opeth and Lowrider. Opening with “Jack Staff,” Greenleaf wastes no time laying out the blueprint for Nest of Vipers. It is direct in its execution, avoiding any meandering—a trait that can often creep into much stoner-rock acts. Perhaps most notable about “Jack Staff,” as well as many other songs on Nest of Vipers is how downright catchy the choruses to some of these tracks are. These songs bare the heavy nature that fans of stoner rock would be used to, but with a bit of classic metal homage thrown in for good measure. Perhaps the best example of this classic metal influence taking hold is on “At the Helm,” where Holappa’s vocals offer up sing-along hooks and the group’s dronier side takes over. It feels akin to something from Black Sabbath’s early years, where it could easily inject a sense of melody atop dark, brooding metal anthems. While there are moments on Nest of Vipers that prove Greenleaf’s skill, the album also suffers from the confines of its genre. The overarching stoner genre has certain qualities that are attributed to it, and of course, they show up here on Nest of Vipers. This is in no way a bad thing, but it often makes the record run together into one big, midtempo mess. There are tracks that see Greenleaf transcend its genre without bastardizing it, but at the same time, when it defaults to the genre’s key elements, the album sounds like a second-rate version of Mastodon’s The Hunter. The album closing track, “Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins)” is a slow-burning epic that finds its greatest asset to be the off-kilter and ambitious drumming of Olle Marthans. The song builds slowly for its eight-minute duration, consuming the listener and keeping them engaged, the way any stoner band worth its weight should be able to. Nest of Vipers doesn’t break any new ground for the genre, but it doesn’t really need to. Greenleaf has found its sound, and by absorbing members of Dozer, it proves that Sweden’s stoner elite still have plenty to offer. At times it is formulaic, but the moments that work show there’s a lot more to this genre than just punishingly repetitive riffs.
- David B. Anthony
Swedish Greenleaf have, since 1999, been through a number of incarnations, but the 2012 adaptation featuring Tommi Holappa on guitar, Bengt Backe on bass, Oskar Cedermalm on vocals, Johan Rockner on guitar and Olle Marthans on drums, has come up with a heavy dose of early 70’s rock inspired genius with “Nest of Vipers” on Small Stone Records. The opening few bars of “Jack Staff” set the bar high with raw, fuzzy guitar, melodic vocal and drums that lurch around high up in the mix. By the time the listener has reached the second track “Case of Fidelity” they will be reaching for the bourbon and cigars. “Lilith” is drenched in sumptuous organ and plump fuzzy guitar, whilst “Tree of Life” is pure cosmic psychedelic progressive rock of the highest order. The highlight for this reviewer has to be the mighty “Dreamcatcher” with its easily recognisable and easily imitated on air guitar driving guitar chord progressions and clattering “Keith Moon” drumming. The pace slows slightly for “At the Helm”, but the power and the flamboyance is still very much in evidence. The reverberation of a dinosaur meandering over the opening of “The Timeline’s History” is the thick heavy bass sound of Backe, which gives way to a further four minutes of tightly controlled but mischievous blues. The mighty eight minutes, however, of “Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins)” which closes the album, is a tour de force of realised ambition with extravagant arrangements, luxurious organ drones, rich vocal lines and the familiar clatter of drums. Eight minutes here allows for a little more experimentation and lateral arrangements, but by this time the listener would forgive this slight indulgence. “Nest of Vipers” is bursting with energy and excitement, and displays a level of musicianship and teamwork that is rare to find, but when found, promises much. Each track carries the hallmark of well planned song structure, and there is never a sense that each individual player is vying for the limelight. Greenleaf here manage to maintain a balance between free-form psychedelic jams and tightly crafted, blues tinged workouts. What comes across primarily is how the percussion is used as a focus for the tunes. The whole range of the drum kit is all over every track, and leaves the listener breathless with exhilaration. The bass is rock steady throughout and provides the perfect anvil on which to hammer out each refrain. The assortment of dynamics on display here is phenomenal. Opeth keyboardist Per Wiberg adds organ to a number of tracks which lends them a heads down, denim jacketed wearing 70’s authenticity. The cover of the album is black and white and psychedelic enough to give a hint of what is inside. The production has analogue written all the way through it like a huge stick of stoner rock. If all this sounds like an album that you may enjoy, then waste no time in getting hold of a copy, because there is no doubt that you will not be disappointed.
- John Toolan
Hi-drama Swedish fuzz rock? Yes please!
When a band names itself Greenleaf, you can bet your bottom bollock they're either clean living straight-edgers that drink nothing stronger than a cup of green tea, or that they're partial to the occasional skunk-packed jazz cigarette. On discovering that this band's music comprises of murmured vocals and '70s style fuzzy guitar riffs, I'd be willing to wager another gonad that it's the latter substance that floats their boat.
Nest Of Vipers, is the fifth and latest album in the band's twelve year existence. Not bad going considering that the group is a “lets just have fun with it” side project. Greenleaf is led by mainstay guitarist Tommi Holappa (whose main band is Dozer), and features the latest line-up of like-minded rockers cherry picked from the Swedish rock underground.
Though the band's playing is reassuringly punchy and bludgeoning, on first listen the vocals come across frustratingly low in the mix. A few listens in however, as odd snippets of lyrics make their way through, you brain is engaged to fill in the blanks, and I'm in no doubt that this was a deliberate ploy. The vocals almost becoming another instrument, not overpowering but a vital part of the overall sonic picture.
Nest Of Vipers contains the sort of driving rock that The Foo Fighters make yet minus the hi-end studio gloss. It's authentically fuzzy and grungey but not at the expense of tunes. In fact Greenleaf are the band that the Foo Fighters could have been had Grohl & Co. cared more about actual rock 'n' roll, and less about mid-week chart placings.
At times heavy and driving as on the majestic opening track “Jackstaff”, and bass-heavy follower “Case Of Fidelity”, other times meditative and almost mystical (“Tree Of Life” and “At The Helm”), the band are also not afraid of letting a lighter, pop-rock element creep in occasionally, as on “Sunken Ships” where guest vocalist Peder Bergstrand's upper register provides a nice contrast with the band's signature low end rock sound.
Although their main inspiration comes from the Anglo/American heavy rock canon, there's an also present Swedish knack for mixing sadness and melody, most pertinently on the album's epic closing track “Nest Of Vipers (A Multitude Of Sins)”. This is an album that works best listened to in one sitting, at window shaking volume. So turn it up loud and get that kettle on, I really fancy a …......... cup of green tea.
What exactly does Small Stone Records look for in a band? Everything I’ve heard on Small Stone is good, raw and heavy. What’s the other factor? I’m curious since they don’t seem to release bad music in my opinion. Whether it’s Lo-pan or Greenleaf, there are always long chromatic riffs, melodic vocals, and ferocious drumming. Production value must play an important role. They tend to like bands that go for the classic analog sound, rather than state of the art digital production. Some of the bands fit more appropriately in the 70’s than now. Greenleaf is one of those bands, and one of the best.
Pushed to the forefront of the stoner rock ilk by a powerhouse drummer (Olle Mårthans), Greenleaf writes songs to drink to, songs to drive to. They have been around for a decade with different lineups in different configurations (features members of Dozer, Truckfighters), but on their latest LP- “Nest of Vipers”, they got it just right.
The entire record is full of intense drumming, Deep Purple guitar riffs, classic rock melodies and an overall vintage production. This is the kind of band, it doesn’t matter what song you’re on, it’s one continuous stream of awesome. The singer (Oskar Cedermalm) is more grunge than metal. It’s hard to tell if he listens to classic rock or anything post-Radiohead. I feel like Greenleaf could have happened in the 70‘s and it wouldn’t have sounded any different. To be truly IN a certain era from the past, one must stay pure and not be ‘too’ open-minded to the point of too much variety. That was the reason an artist like David Bowie got attacked critically, for changing character every album. But needless to say, Bowie was awesome. But that’s solo artist stuff, Greenleaf is a band. Few bands can present a sound that’s so clear and precise to the public, it grabs their attention for being honest and direct. Perhaps that is what Small Stone saw in Greenleaf, a band that had not been distracted by the lure of mainstream, stayed true to the music, and delivered the goods on every album.
A notable feature of “Nest of Vipers”, is the use of the drums as a lead instrument. The opening track- “Jack Staff” holds a strong repetitive beat that reminds me of The Jesus Lizard. In my personal favorite, the mostly instrumental- “Tree of Life”, tribal rhythms circle you with gripping snare hits and unexpected chord directions. You’ll hear in “Dreamcatcher”, fuzzed-out guitar leads and wildly impressive drum fills. They say John Bonham took drumming to a heavier level. This guy takes off where Bonham left it. A more than competent musician, he shows his chops like Keith Moon, commanding a wide range of dynamics from part to part. The first thing to notice when listening to bands, is the drummer. If he sucks, there’s usually no point in going further. If he’s great, there’s no ceiling to how high the energy can get. The title track, placed last, is as epic as anything. A full-on prog rocker with a psychedelic vocal intro that falls into a choir-like chorus, making this the pinnacle of the album.
This kind of music isn’t for dissecting, you just have to listen. But I will say, there’s something going on in Sweden, for a while now, even in other genres, whether it’s Little Dragon or The Knife or The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Sweden is putting out the best music of the times. Mix that with the ears of the people at Small Stone, it’s a winning combination.
Swedish stoner rock merchants Greenleaf started life back in 1999 and through 3 full length albums and an ever revolving cast of musicians; the band has established itself as one of the leaders of the Swedish stoner scene. “Nest of Vipers”, the bands fourth and latest album sees the line up further morphing to now include 3/4th of the Dozer line up. It’s still Greenleaf though and the band is not quite going all “Beyond Colossal” on us. Instead, it’s a natural progression from 2007s “Agents of Ahriman”.
The first three songs on this album pretty much set the stage for everything to follow. Opener “Jack Staff” followed by “Case of Fidelity” and the superb “Lilith” are all seemingly inspired by rough and ready 70s hard rock but it’s a bit more than just that. Vocalist Oskar Cedermalm has a knack for consistently delivering catchy vocal lines and Per Wiberg guests on the excellent “Lilith”. “Tree of Life” is a bit more psychedelic in nature, being mostly instrumental and doing a wonderful job of going from soft to hard and the control of tempo on this song is terrific. Cedarmalm steps in for the lone verse on the song around half way through and the song shifts in tone to a more traditional hard rock approach before finishing up with a loud and heavy garage rock feel and a fuzzed out lead guitar bit. “At the Helm” is just a beautiful song with a snaky laid back verse and some absolutely sublime bass playing before it goes into a loud and heavy chorus with soaring vocals and a clean transition to one of the better guitar solo spots on this album.
The album closes with the superb title track which at just over 8 minutes is the mandatory album epic. Everything Greenleaf has shown off in the preceding 8 songs comes together here. Dozer’s Fredrik Nordin starts proceedings with a beautiful vocal falsetto coming over all smooth and dreamy. Per Wiberg returns with a stunning Hammond organ solo in the middle of the song and then is followed by an equally impressive guitar solo before the song heads into the second half and a superb instrumental blow out ending.
Oskar Cedarmalm turns in a great vocal performance and while his voice is not particularly strong, his ability to come up with memorable vocal lines really works well for “Nest of Vipers”. Tommi Holappa and Johan Rockner are superb on guitar and bring a very welcome toughness to the songs. The lead playing is sublime and the duo do a fantastic job of playing a solo to heighten the atmosphere of a song. Bengt Bäcke’s bass playing is incredibly fluid and smooth. It’s never in your face but always helping the song sounds warmer, richer and fuller. Drummer Olle Mårthans is an absolute star here with his drumming giving the songs momentum and a heavier feel than the last album.
This really is one classy album. Almost like a snapshot of where Sweden’s heavy rock scene is at the moment with a bunch of players who are of the highest pedigree giving you a guided tour. The song writing on this album is highly evolved and “Nest of Vipers” is one of those albums that really grow on you with every listen. Fans of last year’s Graveyard album and fans of stoner rock/ metal in general should find plenty to like here. Greenleaf has released what is easily their finest album and if you’re a fan of the genre then “Nest of Vipers” is essential.
Life can be strange sometimes. In this case, that statement refers to GREENLEAF, or better said, it relates to the fact that I really like this band from the time when they released their debut album 'Secret Alphabets' via Small Stone Records in 2003. Maybe you are asking yourself now, "What is so strange about that?" Well, the answer is simple: the band consists of members of Dozer and Truckfighters, and I do have to admit that I never was a huge fan of both groups. Hence, it seems logical to dislike GREENLEAF. But, as I said, it is the exact opposite. Admitted, there are moments on 'Nest Of Vipers' which remind of the two abovementioned bands from Örebro, but most of the nine tracks cannot hide their classic rock influences. These influences are, however, not as pronounced as on 'Secret Alphabets' (which remains my favorite GREENLEAF album), probably due to the fact that this time, guitarist Tommi Holappa and bassist Bengt Bäcke are joined by Oskar Cedermalm (Truckfighters) on vocals, Olle Mårthans (Dozer) on drums, and Johan Rockner (Dozer) on second guitar. But this is all pure speculation.
What is certain is that 'Nest Of Vipers' boasts with a great deal of energy, lots of variety and many good songs. One of these gems is 'Case Of Fidelity' which not only shows GREENLEAF's talent for haunting compositions but also for powerful guitar riffs. Oskar Cedermalm's vocals aren't anything very special, but they're a perfect compliment to the heavy, fuzzy sounding guitars while his voice definitely grew on me with each additional spin. In 'Sunken Ships', he hands the micro to guest vocalist Peder Bergstrand, who also does a nice job. Another guest on this album is Opeth keyboardist Per Wiberg. He adds to two songs ('Lilith', 'Nest Of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins)' a nice organ sound that evokes memories of the 1970's.
Especially the wonderful psych-tinged title track is inspired by that period of time. But basically, GREENLEAF have taken the stylistics of 1970's heavy rock and transported it to the present times instead of of mimicking a band from 1974. That is precisely why I put the classic rock label on these guys. But don't worry - I'm not obsessed by pigeonhole thinking. All in all 'Nest Of Vipers' is a very good album and shows a different side from GREENLEAF. For my taste, it's not as good as the glorious debut 'Secret Alphabets' (review here) and has more in common with the previous album 'Songs Of Ahriman'. Irrespective of this, GREENLEAF is still an above-average heavy rock band.
Stoner Rock is alive and well with the fourth release from Greenleaf. ‘Nest Of Vipers’ has all the elements that fans of the genre are looking for, while adding some riffs that appeal to a wider audience. Hailing from Sweden, Greenleaf is Tommi Holappa on guitar, Bengt Bäcke on bass, Oskar Cedermalm on vocals, Johan Rockner on guitar, and Olle Mårthans on drums. While I personally have never been a fan of Stoner Rock, I found myself pretty impressed with this CD.
With nine tracks there seems to be a bit of variety to this disc. ‘Tree of Life’ is certainly true to the genre of the band with that fuzzy sound and almost leaden tempo that just has you thinking of sitting around and jamming to the beat of your own drummer. Then Greenleaf throws a track like ‘Sunken Ships’ at you, and that song has the feel of some of the better modern Rock that’s out there. It actually reminds me a bit of the Foo Fighters in sound and was one of the more enjoyable tracks for me to be sure.
Perhaps what struck me most though was ‘Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins)’. While the guitars and beat are deliberate and in the forefront, the vocals had me thinking of Neil Young with the high and airy sound. If it wasn’t so early in the day I’d be wondering if I was hallucinating and hearing things that aren’t there. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher that one band has me thinking of so many other artists that I admire.
Overall the musicianship is solid. The one thing that I didn’t enjoy was the feeling that the vocals were a bit in the background when I played my copy of the CD. At times I found myself straining to hear them over the guitars. Maybe that’s just how Stoner Rock is meant to be? I’m certainly not an authority on the genre. My final verdict? Whether a fan of the style or not there are elements that any lover of Rock will enjoy. Heavy on the “mellow out” vibe, but with moments of strong “dance with me” grooves.
- Melissa Martinez
Thanks to members’ involvement in 90s stoner rock pioneers Dozer, Swedish rock quintet Greenleaf still gets the words “side project* attached to any paragraphs in which its name comes up. Which seems unfair, given that Nest of Vipers is its fourth LP in a decade, which is a pretty good track record in the ‘aughts. Regardless, Nest of Vipers refines the band’s timeless classic rock sound, giving it just enough polish to stand out from similar retro rock acts, but not enough to diminish the raw performances. Unlike most of its contemporaries, Greenleaf’s modus operandi draws more from Deep Purple than Black Sabbath, eschewing sluggish tempos, devilish tritones and haunted atmosphere in favor of stripped-down riffage, macho energy and forthright rocking. While “At the Helm” and the title cut definitely fall into the psychedelic end of the hard rock pool (and very comfortably at that), “Jack Staff,” “Sunken Ships” and “Dreamcatcher” waste no time blasting out the proto-metal hooks and four-on-the-floor rhythms. Kudos also to singer Fredrik Nordin, whose soulful pipes give Greenleaf extra oomph, and a songwriting standard that assume intelligence on the part of the listener. For fans of 70s retro metal, Nest of Vipers gets gold stars all around.
- Michael Toland
GREENLEAF are a Swedish ‘supergroup’ who are very well known in the Stoner Rock world. They formed in late 1999, and “Nest Of Vipers” is their fourth studio release. They’ve been through quite a few lineup changes since their formation, but they sound as good as ever.
This band is all about the riffs. They combine this with the heavy fuzz that they’re known for, and it’s a pretty sweet result. But thankfully, it’s not too reliant on the thicker fuzzy stuff, and GREENLEAF make it clear that they’re here to rock our socks off. Their Stoner Rock label is very apparent here, but there are quite a few songs with a faster tempo, changing things up a bit. The first three – “Jack Staff”, “Case Of Fidelity” and “Lilith” – are a great example of this, and hooked me into the album. Then “Tree Of Life” comes around, and things get a bit more psychedelic, but it’s still an excellent track, allowing the band to show off their skills in balancing the loudness and softness of the music. “Dreamcatcher” definitely show off their influences, I could hear DEEP PURPLE and BLACK SABBATH vibes while listening to the song. The longest and last song on the album is also the title track – “Nest Of Vipers (A Multitude Of Sins)”, and it features DOZER vocalist Fredrik Nordin, and OPETH keyboardist Per Wiberg. It’s an awesome track, a bit more Prog influenced (with the keyboards having a pretty prominent role), but with the Stoner elements ever present.
There’s no doubt that there is a lot of talent present on this album – GREENLEAF aren’t called a supergroup for nothing y’know. And although sometimes bands that are seen as ‘side projects’ often don’t live up to the hype, or get forgotten about, GREENLEAF are a fully established band, and they always leave the listener wanting more, especially with that final track. They manage to keep to their Stoner Rock beginnings, they manage to avoid getting boring by just having the sludgy fuzzy stuff all the way through (something I’ve encountered a lot in the past). They’re all about the good song writing, with both the instruments and the lyrics – sometimes Stoner Rock bands can take the ‘stoner’ part a bit too seriously, and just throw the songs together haphazardly. Saying all that though, on the whole, this album is still pretty laid back, but still rocking.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started listening to this, especially considering all the personnel changes they’ve had over the years, but I had nothing to worry about. “Nest Of Vipers” is an album that I would most definitely recommend, especially if you like your 70s Rock.
- Rebecca Miller
Greenleaf seem to be something of a “stoner rock” supergroup featuring various members of the defunct Dozer and vocalist Oskar Cedermalm from Truckfighters…although the bulk of members are so heavily weighted in favour of members of Dozer that in personnel at least it almost seems like a reformation. Now, this is where I will show my ignorance as I’m not particularly au fait with Dozer and I’ve never heard a note of the Truckfighters but that at least allows me to approach this release without any expectations laid down by the members’ other projects.
Diving into this latest release from the band, given their heritage you may well expect some thick, syrupy stoner rock and, yeah, that is true to a certain extent but from the first few bars of opening track “Jack Staff”, it’s clear that Greenleaf are here to do one thing…rock!!! It does have its roots in stoner rock as well as the bygone days of big hairy 70’s rock but songs are tempered with big radio friendly choruses and almost pop like progressions. Don’t let that word pop put you off, this is far more than a band throwing a few riffs together and calling them songs. Greenleaf clearly show consideration for each part of each song and each element is designed to dovetail into one whole. The art of song writing is clearly the key here over showboating at flash.
The afore mentioned “Jack Staff” alongside “Case Of Fidelity” and “Lilith” are a strong opening trio that keep the pace and the vibe high. Dozer may have been accused in the past of sticking a little too closely to the Kyuss blueprint but here there is arguably more in common with QOTSA’s more commercial leanings, albeit with far more weight and sonic depth. Cedermalm’s voice is also a strong suit within the band possessing a classic rock tone that, to my grizzled ears, isn’t a million miles away from former COC, current Leadfoot front man Karl Agell albeit with more control and a keen ear for a good harmony.
After being smacked upside the head by the opening trio of tunes, “Tree of Life” flips the vibe on its head. More experimental and somewhat darker it displays a certain psychedelic side to the band and allows them to explore their different extremes between their loud/soft dynamic. Maybe not as conventional in structure as the songs that precede it, it still pulls together, albeit in several directions, to present a cohesive whole. On “Dreamcatcher” Greenleaf delve into big balled rock territory; a riff heavy 70’s vibed stomper backed up by some subtle organ textures that add weight to the Sabbath meets Deep Purple aesthetic they’re pushing.
“At The Helm” starts off with a more conventional stoner rock meets doom kind of sound but quickly evolves into something of a mini epic as it lurches from lighter passages to thicker, weightier grooves with consummate ease that belie the nautical theme of the song’s title. Although it may not be the most immediate song on the album, it is saved by a chorus that is pure pomp!!!
“Sunken Ships” is certainly something of a standout track riding on a deceptively simple yet effective guitar line but layered with almost haunting vocals from Peder Bergstrand and some truly beautiful harmonies all of which sit atop a driving and uplifting rhythm. This is where Greenleaf set themselves aside from the bulk of the stoner rock fraternity as few of their peers would be capable of creating anything with half the level of depth displayed here. Greenleaf take a small backwards step on “The Timeline’s History”. It’s still a strong song but steps further into stoner rock territory than the band have done thus far as it rolls along on an uptempo Sabbath style groove but doesn’t offer much more than a lot of other bands have done in this style. As the band have shown elsewhere, they are capable of producing work that is far more distinguishable and…well…interesting.
Clocking in at over 8 minutes and featuring the keyboard talents of Spiritual Beggars and Opeth man Per Wiberg on keyboards it is clear that Greenleaf are putting the title track out there as their big epic statement…and it works. The vocals of Fredrik Norden are restrained and clear as a bell. Wiberg’s organ takes centre stage (ooer) on a song that owes so much more to 70’s progressive rock than it does to the big assed heavy rock shown throughout the album so far…though at the halfway mark the song adds some more meat to its bones, ups the fuzz quota and brings the groove in no uncertain terms. In this one song alone, Greenleaf show they subscribe to the ethic of leave them wanting more.
Most bands that could be considered side projects do run the risk of falling prey to presenting sub standard material that doesn’t make the grade for the members’ day jobs or from having to rush to write and produce an album to fit various schedules. Not so Greenleaf, this is as fully realised and, in many ways, far more cohesive and structured than a lot of music that is around out there in the murky world of stoner and retro rock. Is it a classic, not really but this is certainly a strong foray into 70’s retro rocking goodness and worth a few spins at the very least, as repeated listens open this particular listening experience up each time.
- Ollie Stygall
Pre-release emails from Small Stone are always something to get excited about so I usually download them right away. I snagged this advance for Greenleaf without checking the hype sheet and just started listening right away. First thing, I thought was "damn, this sounds a lot like Dozer!" I really loved their last album Beyond Colossal and played the hell out of it. After a few minutes, it was obvious that Greenleaf was somehow connected to Dozer. After referring to the bio, I was not surprised to learn that several members of Dozer, Truckfighters and the guy that has engineered their albums. Can't go wrong with that configuration.
While Dozer builds off of Black Sabbath, Greenleaf seems to use Alice Cooper as a base (mainly Love It To Death and Killer). This is good news for me since I LOVE Alice Cooper. The production is pretty dry with lots of room for all the instruments, very reminiscent of Love It To Death. Opening song "Jack Staff" even has some "Sun Arise" style muted string scraping. We're off to a good start! My all-time favorite Swedish band Union Carbide Productions were also huge Alice Cooper fans, as well as The Stooges, MC5, Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart. Dozer and Greenleaf continue in that tradition but veer more towards the heavier side of classic rock with a lot of Black Sabbath, 70's Judas Priest, early Grand Funk Railroad and Deep Purple. Probably The Doors, too. Can't go wrong with those influences filtered through potent beer and long months of darkness.
Fast and hard songs like "Lilith" sit along trippy workouts like "Tree Of Life" but most of the album is mid-tempo heavy rock. The guitars are very heavy but not overly distorted or tuned down, leaving lots of room for a nice big bass tone and booming drums. The vocals are cleanly sung with a bit of distortion to give them some bite. There's not a bad song on the album and the closing title track is an especially moody pounding jam with some excellent organ playing. Jon Lord and Craig Frost would be proud. The album is only available on iTunes right now but the physical CD will be coming out in June. Don't snooze on this one.
When getting music from Small Stone I’ve gotten used to receiving excellent Heavy Rock. This new material is excellent alright, but what’s new is that this great band ain’t from the U.S.A. but actually from around the corner of where I roam: Sweden. Not only this, but also this record is a mind blowing piece of Heavy 70ies infused Rock music, and those guys have been around for more than a dozen years now and I didn’t take any notice.
Only recently did I read the news that Android got signed to Small Stone. How fitting I thought, I also thought that this might be one of the rare instances that SS signed an Europe band. Little did I know how wrong I was. Greenleaf actually was the first European band that got added to the SS-catalog, but that was nearly ten years ago. Secret Alphabets released in 2003 was the first Greenleaf record on Small Stones. Since then the SS roster also includes European bands: Dozer, Skanska Mord, and Mother Of God from Sweden, Obiat from UK, Mangoo from Finland, and of course only recently Asteroid from Sweden.
Greenleaf was originally a side project by Tommi Holappa , Daniel Lidén, and Bengt Bäcke (all three from Swedish Stoner Rock Band Dozer), Nest Of Vipers is now their fourth long player. Just like on their last record Agents of Ahriman (2007) Oskar Cedermalm of Truckfighters fame is handling most of the vocal duties, on guitar we have Tommi Holappa and Johan Rockner, on bass it’s Bengt Bäcke, and drums are played by mighty Olle Mårthans. Guests are Per Wiberg (Opeth and Spiritual Beggars) playing organ on Lilith, and Nest Of Vipers, Frederik Nordin (Dozer) doing vocals on Nest Of Vipers, and Peder Bergstrand (Lowrider) singing on Sunken Ships.
The record gets instantly hold of the listener with kick ass-opener Jack Riff. Actually in mine case the first 4 seconds or so where enough to make me know that I’ll love Nest Of Vipers, the rest of the song totally confirmed my first impression.
The riff is a killer that instantly settles in your memory and stays there for good. The production is quite bombastic but not overdone in the slightest, it’s what Heavy 70s Rockers would have sounded like if they had the technology. The drums sound heavy, in a very Bonzoish kinda way. Ozo‘s vocals fit perfectly. Then, after the awesome 70s break and kick ass-solo it even gets better, the songs finale exceeds in a bombastic and energetic chorus for several voices and a guitar that makes you wanna listen to it over and over again.
The second rocker Case Of Fidelity doesn’t have to hide behind the impressive opener. Actually it’s as great as Jack Riff, quite similar also, but still totally has it’s very own right to exist.
Then Lilith. Besides having a soft spot for the mystical figure Lilith, she is said to have been the first wife of Adam, supplanted by Eve, and then went on to marry Lucifer, this song even tops it’s two predecessors. The already mighty sound-wall of Holappa, Rockner, Bäcke, and Mårthans is joined for the first time by Wiberg‘s organ, can Heavy Rock can get any better?
After this orgiastic trio of songs a first major change in the sound of the album: Tree of Life starts out as a psychedelic, jammy tune, but where most bands might have pursued the psychedelic or doomy vibe of the song Greenleaf prefer to break after yet another bombastic climax into a somewhat more basic balladesque verse just to finish off in the familiar kick ass Greenleaf fashion.
Dreamcatcher for me seemed at first a little like the first tune that might decrease the general quality level. But only until the awesome break at around 2:30, the then following part and solo gets my endorphin level back to opiate standards.
At the Helm follows. A mighty title for a mighty song. The first song on the record that might fully qualify as a whole ballad, but with all the might and sound that’s going on, a power ballad of course. No fucking Retro Heavy Rock Album would be whole without it.
The pace stays somewhat subdued while we listen to Peder Bergstrand‘s beautiful singing on Sunken Ships. If you like his voice as much as I do I urge you on to check out I Are Droid. Totally different but good stuff nevertheless.
The Timeline’s History start’s out with a killer bass riff before dropping back into Greenleaf‘s kick as Heavy Rock. Once more Ozo‘s different voices for the chorus turn out to be catchy to the max and the mighty guitars and rhythm section do the rest. It actually is a shame that this has to be the last but one tune, but with nearly a quarter of an hour playtime Nest of Vipers is surely not to short, just maybe too good.
The album concludes with Nest of Vipers (a Multitude of Sins), an eight minute long piece of epicness. The title-track of this awesome record does it all the honor it deserves.
The song starts out slow but grows and grows and peaks in a monstrous, bombastic Heavy Rock ending that leaves you wondering what mammoth just ran over you.
In case you didn’t realize already while reading this review, if you’re somehow into Rock music this record is a must have! Already a very strong contestant for record of the year.
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 with 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.
- Greg Fisher
One of the first Small Stone Records bands that I instantly fell in love with has returned. This is a band is exactly what the doctor ordered so many years ago, and I’m still being given a prescription to this day. Of course, this is a band that is in need of no introductions, but who doesn’t appreciate the build-up, anyway? Greenleaf, the Swedish stoner ‘supergroup’, if you will, is back after yet another change in lineup, and the band blends seamlessly as ever. It’s been an agonizingly long 5 years since they last released new material, but it looks like the new material was well worth the wait.
For anybody familiar with their discography (i.e., everyone), you’ll find that Nest of Vipers sits somewhere between Agents of Ahriman and Secret Alphabets in style. It’s a mix that I was a little surprised to hear, but pleased nonetheless. As much as I love Agents, I’ve always had a soft spot for their earlier albums with Fredrik on vocals, and the mixing of the two styles is a wet dream come true. True to form, this is a Greenleaf album from tart to finish. The band maintains their masterful groovy fuzziness and catchy riffs that blurs the line between time and space. This album also has a noticeable amount of Dozer mixed throughout for good measure. All this culminates with the title track with two very special guests, Fredrik on vocals and Per Wiberg on the organ.
I’ve been anticipating this album ever since I learned they were back together and writing new material. I kept waiting for the release, and the suspense only heightened my want, my need, for the new material. Usually, this much hype dooms an album because there’s no way that it could live up to the hype that you’ve given it. Then again, there are the few bands that can not only meet your ludicrously high expectations, but they can shatter it, as well. Greenleaf has done just that with Nest of Vipers. After 12 years, several incarnations, and another hiatus later, the band is still rocking as hard as ever. This is a must-own treasure. Unfortunately, the wait is still not over. The album’s official release is set until 06/12/12, but there is a silver lining as this sure to be available for purchase through Small Stone prior to its release. It”s still not soon enough, but it’s the best we’re going to get. That is, unless you are a fan of digital-only, then you can pick this album up off of iTunes right now.
Members of Dozer, Demon Cleaner, Truckfighters, and Lowrider have all posed for Greenleaf’s promo shots at one point or another during the band’s spotty 12 year career, which makes ‘em a catch and release program for some of Sweden’s stoner elite, but you might just call this current incarnation Dozer 2.0 with Truckfighters’ Oskar Cedermalm on vocals instead of Fredrik Nordin (although he does make a guest appearance, as does Per Wiberg of ex-Opeth and Spiritual Beggars and Peder Bergstrand of ex-Lowrider and I are Droid). But hey, if Dozer ain’t in the bullying business anymore, I’ll gladly be pushed around by its bloozier brother, Greenleaf, and they certainly haven’t forgotten how to shove a roach-stained finger into your chest since not having released anything since 2007′s Agents of Ahriman. But that’s the great thing about Greenleaf; they can disappear for a spell — like they did between 2003′s Secret Alphabets and Agents of Ahriman — and come back sounding as tight as ever, and Nest of Vipers is packed just so, with all the movement and danger of its namesake. Greenleaf have always sounded like they’re plugged into mile-long coiled guitar cables in the only desert that exists in Scandinavia, kicking up smoky riffs and fuzzy groove, which they do here in bold fashion (“Jack Staff,” “Lilith,” “Dreamcatcher”), but the thing that has always set ‘em apart and given ‘em that royal, powerful edge is their ability to incorporate that other Swedish rock n’ roll force into their tunes: pure swank. It’s casually slight, but there’s enough garage rock vibe on songs like “Case of Fidelity” and “Sunken Ships” to shake things up just right, and when you add the cosmic prog of “Tree of Life” and the organ-fried “Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins),” you’ve got one well-versed and exceptionally executed trove of heavy venom.
- Jeff Warren
Like a lot of bands, the story of Greenleaf’s now decade-plus tenure (their self-titled debut EP came out on Molten Universe in 2000) is one of a rotating lineup, but more than that, it’s the story of a rotating lineup of players who’ve helped define their country’s heavy rock scene for that decade and longer. The remaining founding members of the band are Tommi Holappa (guitar) and Bengt Bäcke (bass), trace their roots back to Dozer, in which Holappa played guitar and whose first two albums Bäcke produced as part of a discography that also includes Demon Cleaner’s transformative 2000 long-player, The Freeflight. Bäcke engineered the first several Greenleaf albums as well: 2001’s Revolution Rock, 2003’s Secret Alphabets and 2007’s Agents of Ahriman – but on their newest offering, Nest of Vipers (Small Stone), Bäcke takes a back seat in that regard, and Karl Daniel Lidén, who played drums on everything up to Agents of Ahriman and to whose VAKA solo-project Bäcke also contributed, has taken over engineering duties for the instruments and the mixing, leaving the vocals to be self-recorded by vocalist Oskar Cedarmalm. Cedarmalm, who also appeared on Agents of Ahriman, is full-time bassist/vocalist in Truckfighters, and laid his parts to tape at that band’s Studio Bombshelter, which anyone who’s yet seen the recent Truckfighters documentary (review here) is bound to recognize the name of.
Meanwhile, Dozer bassist Johan Rockner has signed on to this latest incarnation of Greenleaf, playing second guitar alongside Holappa, and Olle Mårthans, who drummed on Dozer’s 2008 apparent-swansong – I keep hoping they’re not really done – Beyond Colossal, has taken that position as well. It’s a complex (super-) grouping that ultimately results in the following Nest of Vipers lineup:
Oskar Cedarmalm: vocals/vocal recording (Truckfighters)
Tommi Holappa: guitar (Dozer)
Johan Rockner: guitar (Dozer)
Bengt Bäcke: bass (engineer for Dozer, Demon Cleaner, etc.)
Olle Mårthans: drums (Dozer)
And though he doesn’t actually play anything this time around, Lidén makes his presence felt in the sound of the album, which in terms of the mix and the open-air feeling of the instruments has a lot in common with Dozer’s Beyond Colossal and – especially in Mårthans’ drums – Lidén’s own VAKA project. The inherent heaviness of those sounds is a big shift in itself from how Greenleaf presented their material on Agents of Ahriman – which I’m more than happy to go on record as saying was one of my favorite albums of the last decade – but ultimately serves the songs well, as they benefit from Mårthans’ bombast and the overall grittier feel. Factor in guest appearances from Dozer guitarist/vocalist Fredrik Nordin and noted organist Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth/Spiritual Beggars) on the extended closing title-track – Wiberg also shows up on third cut, “Lilith” – and former Lowrider singer Peder Bergstrand (currently of I are Droid) on the later “Sunken Ships,” and the personnel becomes even more noteworthy for Nest of Vipers. Nonetheless, the album keeps continuity five years later with Agents of Ahriman (on which Bergstrand also guested) in its classic rock modernization, ultra-Swedish vibing and masterful songcraft, offering nine engaging tracks that vary in mood and groove and remain nonetheless impeccably structured. Unspeakably catchy when they want to be, but able to turn mood on a dime and maintain the flow, the only shame about Greenleaf in 2012 is that it took so long for Nest of Vipers to manifest.
They have a good excuse in that regard, given the work Dozer, Truckfighters and VAKA have done since 2007, and Nest of Vipers is quick to shake off any rust that might have accrued since the last outing. Opener “Jack Staff” is the first of three four-minute stunners, and followed by “Case of Fidelity” and the first of Wiberg’s appearances on “Lilith,” Greenleaf builds an immediate momentum of straightforward and hooky rock. Cedarmalm turns in a banner performance vocally, showing a depth of arrangement and layering that speaks to his thinking of the band as more than just a side-project, and as he tops Holappa and Rockner’s riffing with harmonized verses and choruses, Nest of Vipers establishes its melodic core. Underneath (or perhaps cutting through), Mårthans enacts the same kind of ferocity he brought to his snare work on Beyond Colossal, which Lidén, a drummer himself, excellently captures. His fills and tom runs on both “Jack Staff” and “Case of Fidelity” are a huge factor in the excitement the songs build, and Bäcke’s bass adds a rich and warm thickness to the more open verses of the latter while also standing up to the guitars for the bridge. With the addition of Wiberg’s Hammond to “Lilith,” the song earns its place as third in the line, feeling like the grander culmination of Nest of Vipers’ first three tracks before the longer “Tree of Life” slows the album’s progression down and changes to a more psychedelic atmosphere. Mårthans again excels on “Lilith,” and his drums are prominent in the mix but not overbearing, and it feels like the guitars have rightly taken a step back to account for Wiberg, but the solo in the song’s back half shines through all the same before a final verse and chorus thunder it to its finish.
Breaking Nest of Vipers into thirds isn’t a bad way to go about it. The first three songs mark an “over before you know it” kind of spearhead, and the next slow down and develop a diverse sense of structure and approach, and the final trio offer further development and, finally, summation of the whole experience. Certainly a shift is underway as the first three minutes of “Tree of Life,” which is only five, start a slow build more or less from scratch. Cedarmalm’s vocals arrive for the lone verse at 3:17, and although Mårthans keeps a near-frantic beat on his ride cymbal for most of the time, switching to the crash and hi-hat as one of Nest of Vipers’ many righteously-fuzzed leads takes hold, Greenleaf are never entirely unrestrained. Where a lot of bands would jam out parts like these, and where that may well have been the foundation on which the song was built, the point is it was built, and control over it is maintained. The track feels long at five minutes, but that proves mostly a function of the more atmospheric take, as the centerpiece “Dreamcatcher” takes hold for the shortest single duration of Nest of Vipers (3:53) and nonetheless continues the same mood, or at very least adds a little funk to it with start-stop riffing and Bonham-style heavy tom landings that underscore the beat as much as they propel it. Holappa and Rockner stand out on guitar in the chorus, and another fuzz lead ties “Dreamcatcher” to “Tree of Life,” even though it picks up its pace for a more hurried ending, Cedarmalm retreating deeper into the mix so as not to compete with a raucous instrumental finale as much as become part of it. As ever, Lidén shows his contributions behind the scenes can be as formidable as any out front.
“At the Helm” brings back a riffier feel from the earlier tracks, but tempers it with a laid-back verse that trades off into a heavier chorus with gloriously predictable pauses, as though Holappa, Bäcke, Rockner and Mårthans were taking a breath (one of the guitars keeps playing, so I guess it’s not everyone) before unleashing it. Cedarmalm counters with some of Nest of Vipers’ most accomplished vocal melodies, the cycle repeats, and a bluesy solo bridge leads to just a flash of doom before the final chorus kicks in. Now two-thirds of the way in, Greenleaf haven’t yet shown all of their stylistic breadth, but at least most of what they have to offer is on display within the first six tracks, which makes “Sunken Ships” perfectly positioned as the seventh for bringing in Bergstrand’s guest spot on vocals. Having also contributed to “Black Tar” on Agents of Ahriman, Bergstrand adds here a casually crooned verse and switches to a sweet, Homme-ian falsetto for the chorus that’s no less ably delivered. Mårthans seems momentarily restrained on the hi-hat for the verse, but adds punctuating snare stomps to the chorus, picking up from “At the Helm”’s finish and still managing to add flourish to a well-earned Bäcke bass solo. Unlike some of the material in the previous third (the middle third), “Sunken Ships” seems less geared on affecting a musical build than exploring a richness of melody, and as Bäcke returns to the fore to start “The Timeline’s History,” it’s clear what the song has been building toward. The momentum of “Jack Staff” and “Case of Fidelity” (I’d include “Lilith” here as well, but its organ spot is yet to find companion on the closer) is revived, and Greenleaf confirm that at the core of Nest of Vipers is a current of excellent songwriting.
To that I’ll also add that although one might look at the tracklisting – on which six of the nine tracks hover within 10 seconds of being four minutes long – and think that some kind of redundant formula is at play, that’s simply not the case. Even as “Jack Staff,” “Case of Fidelity” and “The Timeline’s History” follow a similar course, they each have a personality within that course and seem to be driving for a different feel. Aiding that argument is the surf rock solo break in the back-half of latter, which Bäcke and Mårthans handle beautifully and cut with a snare to launch back into the final chorus. Cedarmalm’s vocal confidence makes me look forward to the next Truckfighters more than I already was, and soon enough, “Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins)” begins its unfolding, Wiberg’s organ complementing the guitars as Dozer’s Nordin takes the fore vocally with a falsetto of his own. At 8:12, the title-track is the longest on Nest of Vipers by more than two full minutes, but it also accounts for almost every turn Greenleaf make on the eight songs preceding, and allows room for a killer organ-into-guitar solo in the middle from which the band embarks on the album’s instrumental ending – a subtle but undeniable build for which Mårthans saves his finest and most bombastic drumming. Fills seem to go in two directions at once amid the driving guitars, bass and organ, but ultimately, it’s the latter that has the distinction of capping Nest of Vipers as the other instruments cut away and the organ notes sustain like the waving flag of Greenleaf’s classic rock allegiance.
Given Wiberg’s characteristically excellent contributions and Nordin stepping into the vocal role, one might think of “Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins)” as a sequel to “Bound for Greatness” from Dozer’s Beyond Colossal, but the instrumental build at the end sets the two songs apart more even than (somewhat) different players’ involvement could. Still, some of the same ideas are there in the beginning, and it’s one more subtle example of Greenleaf’s overarching refinement. Holappa and Bäcke have developed this band from a side-project curiosity into a bullet-pointed summary of modern Swedish heavy rock’s course since these players began helping set it in the late ‘90s. Like the best of its genre from any nation, Nest of Vipers is unabashedly classic in its influence but still pushing into new territory, and the heft added by Lidén’s production only makes these songs more dangerous. It’s been a long time coming, and I feel like a bit of a fanboy glowing over it so much, but Greenleaf’s fourth full-length has met every expectation I could have put on it, and like its predecessor, it’s a record I look forward to engaging with on a longer term than a simple review can encompass. No doubt in my mind it will stand as one of 2012’s finest releases, and for anyone who ever wanted to garner some understanding of what Swedish heavy rock should and can and does accomplish when so well executed, Nest of Vipers is a textbook whose lessons are waiting to be read. Highly recommended and then some.
- H.P. Taskmaster