Bengt Bäcke: bass
Sebastian Olsson: drums
Tommi Holappa: guitar
Arvid Jonsson: vocals
Produced by Greenleaf
Recorded by Karl Daniel Lidén at Studio Gröndahl, October 2013.
Vocals recorded by Arvid Jonsson at Hälla Libraries.
Mixed & mastered by Karl Daniel Lidén at Tri-Lamb Studios, December 2013 - January 2014. (karldanielliden.com).
Album Artwork and Design by Alexander von Wieding, zeichentier.com
Bandphoto by Falk-Hagen Bernshausen.
All songs written by Greenleaf
Published by Small Stone Records (ASCAP).
Alright it seems that I again have to to be the village fool. 'Trails & Passes' is my fellow Swedes' 5th full-length but up til now I have never heard of them. I know I should be more than ashamed especially since I like guitarist Tommi Holappa's other band Dozer. Let me blame it on having lived in the States for too long. Regardless my pettiness I am glad this album was sent my way because the trippy, spaced out stoner-psych Greenleaf are playing is absolutely fantastic. And it gives me some backtracking to do since these bonged-out Swedes are well worth checking up on.
Guitarist Tommi Holappa and bassist Bengt Bäcke are the only mainstays through the band's career and this time they have brought in singer Arvid Jonsson and drummer Sebastian Olsson. And this new constellation don't disappoint. Of course, I don't what their previous releases sounds like but that doesn't matter because Greenleaf lets the riffs and the groove dictate this wax.
A bluesy riff starts off opener 'Our Mother Earth' before the band launches into a barnstormer of a song. Leaning heavily into heavy rock of the 70's it's a brilliant starter indeed. Going for groove and jam 'Ocean Deep' builds up slowly until this psych-sounding piece kind of explodes in the second half with a brutal guitar solo. Starting almost like 'Mississippi Queen', 'Equators' quickly turns into a stoner tune mixed with a good pinch of power blues of the highest order. Amazing, you hear?!?!?! It's back to groove and spaced out rock on 'Depth Of The Sun'. Almost like a Clutch song with John Garcia or Mark Lanegan on vocals 'Humans' is that type of song that builds up increasingly in parts. Slightly different but very good.
'With Eyes Wide Open' takes us on a trip and a half. Just stick your nose in the rose in the hole and it smells like a dream if you know what I mean. An awesome space trip on the slower side so just close your eyes and you'll be somewhere else, somewhere good! Knee deep in blues with blistering guitar work and some heavy hitting drumming 'The Drum' is over too quickly. Remedy is right around the corner though in 'Bound To Be Machines'. Greenleaf play some real good riff-infested stoner here with Arvid sounding like Mark Lanegan which is a big plus in my book. Round of the album is the title track and the Screaming Trees references are here in abundance and I love it. Musically it's more spacey and stoner than the Trees ever were. It's in the vocal delivery and the harmonies it comes out and it is amazing.
Well, what can I say? A better introduction than this to a "new" band is virtually impossible. 'Trails & Passes' took me by storm and it is constantly growing which is a great trait in a great album. Not only that, it also has given me a purpose, a strong purpose, in getting my hands on the band's other releases. These guys are way too good to be ignored so get off your asses and investigate and invest in Greenleaf!
- Håkan Nyman
Greenleaf are a stoner trio from Sweden. Tommi Holappa from Dozer, Daniel Liden from Demon Cleaner and Bengt Backe and Peder Bergstrand from Lowrider brought out their first EP in 2000 followed by “Revolution rock” in 2001, “Secret alphabets” in 2003, “Agents of Ahriman” in 2007 and “Nest of vipers” in 2012. Small Stone Records have issued the new album ‘Trails and passes’ and everything I’ve heard from that label is raw, heavy, and good.
The riffs are long, the drumming is intense, the vocals are ferocious, and the album has a very 70s feel to it. The production is very clean and this is their finest album yet. The entire album has an early Deep Purple influence. Tommi Holappa keeps the guitar on an even keel from start to finish. Arvid Jonsson is tight and melodious, Sebastian Olsson is groovy. He knows how to keep the listeners swinging to the beat and Bengt Backe keeps the bass rumbling and growling. The band is clear, crisp and the sum is so much greater than the parts.
“Our motherash” opens the album and the riffs are reminiscent of Liquid Jesus, the 90s San Francisco stoner doom band that nobody has heard of. It is full of energy and keeps the listener hooked throughout. “Ocean deep” is melodious, powerful, and tight. There is not a single misstep on this one. It breezes with a gust of bass, drums and cool vocals. “Equators” is straight-up stoner. Riffs pile on riffs and it looks like Fu Manchu have also been a big influence on the Swedish quartet for this track. “Depth of the sun” has unexpected chord directions and gripping snare hits reverberating. The song almost threatens to turn into a prog-rock number before we hit “Humans.” This is my favorite song off the whole album. Clean riffs, drums that glide along smoothly, guitar that surges along and vocals that keep them all tied together in a tight knot. The song is your staple stoner rock with the band displaying their chops from start to finish.
“With eyes wide open” has a Led Zeppelin vibe and the grooves take over. “The drum” is Olsson’s show all the way and you just have to listen and let him entrance you. “Bound to be machines” is the penultimate track and is the weakest off this album only because it sounds more or less the same. “Trails and passes”, is the album finisher and it brings things to a full circle with the drums taking over and the bass trailing along. There are tribal rhythms on this one and once the album ends you can’t help but play it again.
I'll be honest, loyal reader. I'm usually pretty excited to receive a new release from Small Stone. This Detroit label specializes in guitar-oriented groove rock that is in all likelihood greatly influenced by Black Sabbath. Greenleaf does not disappoint.
The second song "Oceans Deep" is a great example of the sound you can expect from Small Stone. The bass works a pretty good groove throughout the song while the guitar on a couple different occasions rises to a level that gets you pumping your fist and banging your head. That builds into a shredding guitar part that is backed by a seriously groovy rhythm. If this song doesn't get some part of you moving, I think very little will.
That song is a good example of what you can expect throughout this album. You could literally start listening to this album with any of the nine songs and you'd hear a rumbling, groovy bass line behind a a loud and sometimes furious guitar part. And don't infer from that statement that every song sounds the same. It doesn't. The band just rocks with a fairly consistent formula.
While the album largely falls into the groove rock category, "With Eyes Wide Open" has the similar groovy bass line as the rest of the album, but the guitar and vocals provide a serious psychedelic facet to the song. This song also builds to a volume and tempo that makes you want to put the pedal to the floor and pump your fist as you drive on an open highway (something that can only be had in the wee hours of the morning in southern California). It finishes with a riff and a volume that just might make you want to smash something. Not that I advocate smashing something, but at the very least this is a good song to play before participating in an athletic event or working out.
Small Stone has once again satisfied my inner rocker. This is an amazing album that is heavy and loud. If your neighbors already dislike you, play this album for them as loud as you can, and they probably won't like you any more for it. But hey, at least you'll satisfy your inner rocker.
- Gary Schwind
First of all, Greenleaf is not a band I would recommend to someone to try to convert them to “stoner rock”, but rather a band I would recommend to someone who is already into the stoner rock scene and looking for another good band to listen to. They are not the band that will blow you away and demand your attention; they are the band that will consistently put out well-written, flawlessly recorded old-school rock. For me, getting a new Greenleaf album is kind of like getting a new ZZ Top album, or maybe AC/DC; you won’t get any huge surprises and you can expect a certain level of quality. On every Greenleaf album there are a few tunes that I favor over the others, but never any that I don’t like. On the new album, “Ocean Deep”, “Humans” and “The Drum” are my standouts so far. Small Stone Recordings’ Bandcamp website claims that guitar player Tommi now considers Dozer to be his side project, where the reverse used to be true. In any event, “Trails & Passes” is what you would expect: a solid addition to the Greenleaf library of music. I think the first EP or “Revolution Rock” may still be my favorite Greenleaf albums, but this one is quality rock through and through.