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).
The cover for the newest album from Sweden’s Greenleaf features a beautiful painting of a mountain range with what looks like a pass or river extending southward from the center of a blaze of sunlight. It’s fitting. Picture yourself for a moment, if you will, in a car careening up a mountain road. It’s an old, American-made, muscle car, crafted from steel and sweat. Windows down, the engine roars like some sort of unwieldy killing machine out of a Mad Max film. Despite the upward trajectory, the landscape flies by in a blur of browns and greens. As you crest towards the top of the hill your horizon is split by a crevice of brilliant yellow and orange hues. The crevice grows and the sunlight starts to pour in like lava splitting through a movie screen until the brilliance and warmth of a new day’s sun has completely engulfed you. For a moment, just a moment, you close your eyes and for that one second before you go careening down that mountain you are literally on top of the world and concurrently at the center of the universe. You’re a god amongst men in that one instant before you begin again your proverbial and literal descent back to Earth. The entire time, Greenleaf’s newest rock n’ roll opus, Trails and Passes is on the stereo, equal parts thunderous and mesmerizing brilliance.
It’s hard to believe this is Greenleaf’s fifth album. Maybe it’s the lag time in between them, maybe it’s just hard to imagine a band getting better ad better with each release, even after the line-up has been overhauled. But here we sit, with Trails and Passes coming to us as a refreshing addition to a discography that’s already solid, bordering on spectacular. There’s a new voice out front in Arvid Jonsson and a new keeper of the beat on the back end in Sebastian Olsson. Like so many great rock bands before them, Greenleaf not only survive the line-up changes but it’s arguable they were for the better. Jonsson in particular adds a new dimension to the Greenleaf sound and his voice, a more dynamic fit for the glorious riff fest happening behind him, is one to be trusted note by note.
In the 1990’s stoner rock was the darling of the extreme music underground. Bands like Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Nebula, etc., took Southern California and made it tangible to the ears. Painted deserts, peyote trips, and suns setting on a new West became a rock n’ roll standard in certain circles, while the rest of mainstream America went into a Creed-induced coma. Despite the nine hours and 5,000+ mile difference in locale, Greenleaf are the newest, best torch-bearer of the original stoner rock masters. The epicenter of the stoner rock kingdom now lies in Scandinavia, usurped like so many other musical thrones these days. These wild hordes of neo-Vikings wielding their axes (and drum sticks, and vocal chords) as efficiently as their ancestors wielded their own. Whether it’s the anthemic “Equators” (complete with a foot-stomping, cow bell intro) or more esoteric tracks like “With Eyes Wide Open”, Greenleaf have mastered all that is good and holy in rock music. Unafraid to take chances, yet equally unafraid to simply put their foot down on the accelerator of the beast they are driving, emptying the gas tank in a flurry of surgical-like precision.
There was a time when this outfit was considered a side project to their members other outfits. No longer. Greenleaf is the top dog in that food chain now and that’s the way it should be. With an album this good in their hands they’d be foolish for it not to be. Trails and Passes is out now via Small Stone Recordings. You can experience the full album over at the Small Stone Bandcamp page.
- Chip McCabe
The members of Swedish rockers Greenleaf came together as a side-project back at the tail end of the 1990s, and have somehow outlasted the bands they considered their main gigs at the time. To understand the Greenleaf sound you only need to look as far as the acts that ‘leaf mainstays Tommi Holappa (guitars) and Bengt Bäcke (bass) used to call home. Both played in Dozer, who made some interesting Kyuss-esque albums, and Bäcke also played in a band called Demon Cleaner, who I haven’t heard but can safely assume were equally Kyuss-esque given that their name comes from one of the desert-rock pioneers’ best songs. It therefore comes with no surprise at all that Trails and Passes, Greenleaf’s fifth full-length album, can best be described as…wait for it….Kyuss-esque. Kyuss’ mash up of low rumbling heaviness and molten psychedelia is all over these nine songs, which makes for some good listening, but the lack of originality makes them far from essential. Yes the band are tight and can deliver melody and brutality in equal measure; but so did Kyuss, and with better songs. “Equators” is probably my favorite song on the album; a fun rebellious anthem, complete with a cowbell that’s so expected you almost wonder how they waited until the third track to include it. However, it too suffers from a lack of originality, which anyone who’s ever heard Hawkwind’s own rebellious anthem “Urban Guerilla” can attest to. “The Drum” is both heavy and funky, and is as far afield from Kyuss as Trails and Passes gets – which is not very far, considering it sounds almost exactly like Queens Of The Stone Age. Singer Arvid Jonsson even sings with a Josh Homme-styled falsetto. It, like everything else on the album, is well done, but has also been done better before.
After a lot of changes in the band occupation they are able to produce a fifth album. Theses Swedish guys make outstanding psychedelic stoner rock since 1999. How does that sound? An over doses of fuzz on the guitars where they produce calm melodies and a sand storm arising solos. The drum take care of an evenly rhythm and the singing fit great with the tuning of the guitars. The vocals sound similar to that of The Black Keys. One of the most beautiful tracks is ‘Ocean Deep’. There is a powerful vivacious melody and a catchy refrain. Towards the ending al that is pretty is perfectly interrupted by a raw solo. Another calm melodic track is ‘Depth Of The Sun’. A slow psychedelic top track is ‘With Eyes Wide Open’. The intro is a two minute during over the edge guitar effect and slowly intertwines with the melody. On the background you keep hearing the freaky guitar sounds. Further on the track there is a good solo, an instrumental part, it is a song packed with change. The best part about stoner rock is that it has a musically broad spectrum, ‘Trails & Passes’ is a lot more rock and roll and flows easily into a mighty riff. I searching for something but I do not know what. I start listening to their last album and I directly hear what I am searching for and I am evenly a bit disappointed. Their last singer Oskar had a more distinctive sound. I can really enjoy stoner rock and this is still an awesome album, but it is a bit tame. You can go two ways with stoner, beat the shit out of it like Queens of the Stone Age or pack it with experimental sounds. This is not one of them. Although I would listen to the album on a warm, dusky, summer evening. Or if I would drive through the desert, but this chance is considerably lower than the first example. If I have to choose, the I would rather play Nest Of Vipers.
There is no visible end to the waves of great hard rock emanating from Sweden. Whatever the reason, the relatively small Scandinavian country keeps pumping out ass-kicking bands, from Asteroid to Witchcraft. Starting out as a side-project of Dozer, the Borlänge-based Greenleaf has seen members of Demon Cleaner, Truckfighters, and Lowrider pass through their revolving doors. It’s no bombshell, then, that their fifth album Trails And Passes is a thoroughbred piece of stoner rock. Still featuring Dozer members Bengt Bäcke (bass) and Tommi Holappa (guitar), Trails And Passes sees drummer Sebastian Olsson and vocalist Arvid Jonsson joining the fold.
Launching straight into a fuzz and roll fury, “Our Mother Ash” simply oozes with dry desert flair. Peyote and convertibles are the law; this is music for cruising through the desert under the open skies. Like a more laid-back Truckfighters, Greenleaf are content to sit back and let others do the vehicular brawling. “Ocean Deep” is an immediate highlight, a lazy rhythmic tune that seems tailored for sweaty midsummer nights. Obviously there is a strong sense of Homme in the spaced-out riffs, but Greenleaf are more than sons of Kyuss. These guys know their game, and it shows throughout Trails And Passes.
Unfamiliar with their previous output, my impression of Greenleaf is solely based on the quality of Trails. Oscillating between steady stoner jams and hard-rocking numbers, the band exceeds in both areas. Jonsson’s pipes are somewhat dazed and distant, which suits the slower numbers but could have used a little bite on pounding tracks like “Equators”. There are a couple of misses on the album, particularly the funk-flirting of “The Drum”, and the Alice In Chains-esque number “Humans”, fall flat. Greenleaf are at their strongest where fuzz and psychedelia meets, as on the aforementioned “Ocean Deep” and the groovy monster “With Eyes Wide Open”.
Despite the odd weak track, Trails And Passes is great when it hits all the right notes. The positives by far outweigh the negatives; all things considered Greenleaf is a pretty awesome band. Children of the riff are bound to find at least a couple of keepers here, as well as potheads, skaters, and otherwise chill dudes. As the sun descends, Greenleaf just seem to get higher.
- Ailo Ravna
Small Stone Records has a lot of good bands on their roster... like "a lot-a lot". That being said; you must know that I love fuzz in all it's forms. Whether it be dirty alt-blues, stoner rock, doom or retro "classic" rock, Small Stone is really putting out music that's pumped directly into my comfort zone. In my opinion Sweden's Greenleaf is in the Top 5 of that roster easy. For a band that has gone through something like 4 lead singers their output is very reliable. Trails and Passes features Arvid Jonsson on vocals. He's sort of got mix between Dan Aurbach of the Black Keys, (when he still sang with some conviction), and Graveyard's Joakim Nilsson. A perfect blend of soulful crooning and rock n' roll punch allows him to fit right in with the stoner/retro rock of Greenleaf. This is not the steady nod of a lot of stoner rock bands, no no no, Greenleaf bring the ruckus fast and furious to your speakers. Based more in the pacing of Deep Purple or Uriah Heap there are some slower moments but for the most part there is a pretty good gallop and energy to spare in all these songs. They also mix in some of the spaced out reverb and noise of modern psych giants like Dead Meadow to give everything a little more atmosphere and flow. You get from song to song here seamlessly. Nothing seems out of place or forced in any way. The rock just flows out of them like a river.
Trails and Passes kicks off with a steady blues riff and a some lightning fast snare strikes and thunderous tom work in "Our Mother Ash". While the entire band sounds like they're waiting to explode at the drop of a hat, the vocals are laid back and in the pocket smoothing the edges of the song and laying down a solid hook in the chorus. "Ocean Deep" follows up with an equally rambunctious drum beat but some hanging guitar chords that offset the tension brought by a more forceful vocal approach. This is the kind of dichotomy you can expect throughout the record. Sometimes within the different instruments during singular parts of a song and sometimes the entire band will change it's mood during the course of a song. The second side's opener "With Eyes Wide Open" maintains a somber spaciness and turns around into a full on pummeling chug. "Bound to be Machines" maintains a steady drum and bass gallop as the guitar and vocals flow in and out like the tides. All of these dynamics are thrown in to pretty simple rock formats. No long winded songs with continuous time changes and incessant noodling. This is straight ahead rock with a lot of thought put into it. The guitars soar and solo's are tasteful, the rhythm section pounds away a steady beat and the vocals are melodic and hooky. I'm probably oversimplifying it but at first listen that's what you're going to get for sure. As you go further down the rabbit hole that is Trails and Passes, nuances will bloom in your consciousness and you will see how full and intricate a record it is.
- Adam Wujtewicz
Well, Greenleaf, then. I do not know whether you do it again, so we will play Express: all star band, stoner, rather Scandinavian groups = Dozer hard core. That's basically what. We just won five minutes, much better harnessed to listen to good music. Group status remains nebulous, if not as the years passed, we see that it takes almost more important than his adoptive father Dozer: tighter frequency albums, tours formal (then that it was entitled to far-off concerts, quasi event, the coup) ... And then after talking with the father Tommi Holappa, the guy really does not hide it instead Dozer second priority when Greenleaf is "active" ... Now see what the future holds.
This "Trails & Passes" in this case, finally sees the line-up "project" renew widely since the previous album, with the incorporation of two new heads ("group"?): Sebastian Olsson on drums (a Swedish drummer little famous, which can be traced there many years in youth productions death metal, but more recently in the 70's stoner-progueux of Thalamus) and Arvid Jonsson vocals (singer groups as obscure as Humfree Bug Art, Mozkovitch ...). A frisson of excitement runs we spine at the prospect of this risk-taking is good.
Well, said risk taking turns limited because from the first chords means that the group has not fundamentally challenged musically: Swedish quartet still offers the same vein of stoner classic and very clean, with blues connotations typical groovy 70s rock And that side, Holappa knows his stuff.'s songs are impeccably crafted, and arranged with a scalpel. It breathes as much talent as professionalism. We embarked on a serious matter, it is no longer a project a hit.
Where I think the rub a little, and the first review of this album seems to me to ignore this point, it is clearly on the vocal performance Jonsson (although one never takes Olsson, the new drummer, failing him, his game is rich, varied, square ... in one word perfectly suited). The singer is still holding on, it hums quietly in his corner, he will not push ... Where performance Cedermalm technically we had bluffed the previous wafer, is clearly descended several steps here. Suddenly, all ben fireworks production come coat, support, supplement a little hungry (and tasteless) vocal lines Snowman: singing discrete gun on "Ocean Deep" choirs wide range of effects (echo / delay, reverb , etc..) ... do not throw more! Must see all quiet timidly wear a title like "Our Mother Ash" (almost criminal posture while soul sounds were conducive to push the voice tab in powerful surges) guys, kill the chorus of "Humans" (which deserved an angry and powerful excess, which becomes sheepish and wheezing) or the sublime "Bound To Be Machines", a soft irritating.
But behind this point gap still hiding a forest composed prodigious, which do not fully shade of a song a little underperforming. It has been said, Holappa is an outstanding composer, and this cake is no exception (make no mistake, even if the whole group is credited for songwriting, everyone knows that is machine riffs in quartet ...). The new songs are very varied, sometimes heavy and sometimes groovy (often both), the compounds are also efficient on fast tempos that means ... As a guitar player, the MVP of the washer again takes its game including distilling soli marked by a remarkable feeling (see super-groovy bass-guitar solo of "Ocean Deep", the deluge of wah-wah on "Humans", but also "The Drum" or light "Trails And Passes").
Briefly, there is still an album very high level, driven by something that looks more than ever a real band (besides, we can see in the flesh on stage shortly ...) and although for reasons I will not rehash here I do not think whether it is the best production of the combo (or at least the stronger), this drive is one of the remarkable output of the year. Not completely necessary, but damn enjoyable. You draw the conclusions you want ...
In southern U.S. as boiling swamps in the heart of the month of August, we do not figure the numbers of exciting rock formations, the NOLA scene until Legion combos Texans, who guitars and influences red necks are part of the DNA as well as large gulps of bourbon. Driven into the corner shots, which are ultimately only their lives, tens of "stoner bands" make them glow groovy rock crushed sun. And lately, when talking groove, it is to Wo Fat that reference must be because it is unlikely that the trio of Dallas has the deep south pasted into the stetson Kent Stump, swashbuckler / vocalist of the band. After three games in high-psychedelia (The Gathering Dark/2007; Psychedelaut/2009 and Noche De Chupacabra/2011) recently reissued on vinyl Nasoni Records, the band has reached a milestone with the release of Black Code in 2011 in Small Stone Records. The marriage between the Texan trio and hyperactive label Detroit appears obvious today: Wo Fat started to compose hits without losing an ounce of the groove that is his trademark. The Stump flew guitars have no reason to worry about keeping the rhythm, as the pair Wilson / Walter holds up. Without wasting time, after a split with Egypt appeared on the French label Totem Cat Records and after finally managed to come play in Europe (ten dates company Abrahma and the Roadburn 2013), the combo s' up in his own studio and recorded The Conjuring Dallas, discography new step in a group definitely moving.
In continuation of The Black Code, Wo Fat takes care of stroking stonehead in the grain and back without losing an ounce of efficiency. The Conjuring keep this unique aura, is turning up the groove trance, Stump offering a platform of choice for unwinding guitar melodies somewhere between Earthless and Southern Rock pure juice. If the concerns of the album - like his wallet - are darker, the holy groove is intact and a few key pieces will complement the set list already sharpened combo ("The Conjuring," "Beggar's Bargain"). The trio concludes as her cake tradition with an epic 17-minute piece, "Dreamwalker" and imposes the continuity of his discography its slow turns into a perfect blend of southern rock legacy and fuzzées concern. Can be a probably more pessimistic as less immediate than The Black Code hair, The Conjuring is a fifth important step in the proposed training that clearly starts counting travel.
Greenleaf's sound can be defined as ‘70s style, stoner rock with a psychedelic feel. Although only two original members remain on this release, the chemistry between the musicians on Trails and Passes is simply impeccable. The fifth studio album for the band, it continues to display their exceptional songwriting and ability to make the listener travel back in time.
The abundance of fuzz and the catchy riffs are sure to grab the listener and take them on a ride through time and space. With drums that are absolutely unrestrained, vocals that soothe like medicine, and melodies that are as groovy as they are full of energy, this album is tailor-made for fans of both the old and new style good old fashioned catchy rock ‘n’ roll. Trails and Passes is perfect for anyone who already has Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Truckfighters, Dozer, Clutch and Graveyard albums in their record collections.
- Rating: 4/5
- Valerie LittleJohn
Swedish riff breeders Greenleaf bring you "Trails and Passes". It's a great rocking record that has massive amounts of riffs and a wonderful flow of songs. This is one of them albums that I rarely come across.
Greenleaf have been around for a long time and with many, many line-up changes. So, with the new additions of singer Arvid Jonsson and drummer Sebastian Olsson, they have upgraded in a killer way. Throw in founding members Tommi Holappa on guitar and Bengt Bäcke on bass and wow, I really hope they keep this line-up.
Side project from Dozer? I think not. From what I've read Tommi has stated that Dozer is now the side project. And I can see why.
Definitely for fans of Kamchatka, Dozer, Truckfighters, Graveyard, Asteroid and QOTSA; all of which are coincidentally Swedish bands except for the obvious one. Support this band and it's label.
- The Gooch
A new Greenleaf album is always cause for celebration. There are very few bands that put out consistently great albums one after another, even fewer still when you consider the line-up changes this band has gone through. On "Trails and Passes" the biggest change comes in the vocal department. Whereas on past Greenleaf albums, you may have had different vocalists but at least they were recognizable from their already successful full-time bands be it Lowrider, Dozer or Truckfighters. This time around Arvid Jonsson is on the mic, bringing his own vibe to the band which leads to a bit of a change with the style of music. The heavy, groove-laden fuzzed out Swedish stoner rock sound is all but gone, replacing it with the organ-heavy retro sounding rock of Deep Purple that meets the hard rock fusion of Atomic Bitchwax. "Our Mother Ash" is the opening track and sounds like it's straight out of 1972. It's got Purple written all over it, going back to their more psychedelic "Hush"-era sound. On "Ocean Deep", the band gets into its swing right off the bat. It's a rock and jazz fusion that resembles The Police right up until the jam that just smokes. Who needs more cowbell? Look no further than "Equators" which shares the same head banging beat with Ram Jam's "Black Betty". The bluesy shuffle on "Depth of Sun" is almost trance-inducing especially when paired up with the layered atmospheric vocals. "Humans" has an STP feel, partly due to the trademark groove but also due to the Weiland-like vocals. After all these catchy hook-laden gems, the band tosses in an 8+ minute dark opus "With Eyes Wide Open". The song trudges along in a eerie, atmospheric universe for most of the song. Things pick up about halfway through resulting in a heavier track albeit no less dark. "The Drum" is a fuzzed out funky tune, that has more than a little Stevie Wonder to it. The best track on the album may be "Bound to be Machines". It's heavy, yet melodic and really catchy. The album ends with its title track which doesn't cool the engines one bit, and if anything kicks things up a little. The Police reference rears its head again on this one mixed with the straight forward boogie of Freedom Hawk. It puts a loud and fitting exclamation point on a great album.
- Slades and Nikki
A Swedish Stoner Rock Symphony
The awesome Swedes of Greenleaf should need no introduction for you connoisseurs of Stoner Rock out there, but just to catch everyone up, they're basically a revolving group of heavy musicians who have already made their name with other groups, but always find their way back here for a side project that has taken on a life of it's own since the first release back in 2000. Getting into the list of great musicians who've graced a Greenleaf album would be extensive, but suffice it to say they all came from groups that are loved in the Stoner Rock scene, like Dozer, Lowrider, Demon Cleaner, and The Truckfighters. With a past band resume like that, you already can envision the type of sound they embody, classic Stoner Rock, but always towing a line between that, Alternative, and Psychedelic Rock.
The second track on the album, "Ocean Deep" opens up with bashing drum solo that rides for a few seconds until the rest of the group drop in, creating a huge, spacious sound with the guitar tones in an attempt to contain the crushing groove of the track. You can hear the fuzzy bass line plodding along, and the melodic vocals that finish out the mix so excellently. They take the title of the song to heart with this one, with the song being so much like an ocean, having constantly moving currents, the sheer expansiveness of it all. The song never stays on a single path too long, with the brain shattering guitar solo in the second half leaving it never quite the same, and constantly evolving little by little before that. As you get deeper into the album and come to the fourth track, "Depth of the Sun", kicks off with a fairly simple guitar riff, which is joined shortly by a quiet drum part that slow builds and builds, until the floodgates break loose and the whole band kicks it up a notch and starts to jam. The reverb soaked vocals have an airy sound to them this go 'round, just lending the immensity of the track, and even the entire album. When you proceed a little farther down the rabbit hole, you come across the seventh track, "The Drum", and it's got a serious retro vibe to it, 70's Hard Rock at its very finest. Greeted with a swinging riff, and pounding drums, the groove just pummels and you can't keep from moving in time with the track. The vocals aren't quite as airy, but just as huge with a heavier edge, and pick up a really catchy melody for this one.
I'm sure this one is going to make all of the year end lists, if not at the top, very close to it, such a solid album all the way through. You can't really expect anything less from such experienced and well versed musicians, but it's best when a band comes through on the high expectations, and not only meet but surpass said expectations. You can head over to the Small Stone Records bandcamp and get in on the Greenleaf action, if you like Stoner Rock, you almost have to.
Here we have yet another Scandinavian band doing a superb job at delivering retro '70s hard rock sounds in the grand tradition of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Budgie, Grand Funk Railroad, KISS, and Led Zeppelin. Greenleaf have been around since 2000 and have a string of releases to their credit, though this is the first time I have come across them. Trails and Passes is their fourth release for Small Stones Recordings, and it's a doozy, filled with tasty riffs, plenty of heavy grooves, and the excellent Jim Morrison-meet-Ozzy styled vocals of Arvid Jonsson. "Equators" sees guitarist Tommi Holappa firing off some sizzling blues drenched heavy rock solos and crushing riffs that bridge psychedelia with proto-metal, and the lumbering "Humans" contains massive grooves to die for, showing that Greenleaf can pack a boatload of feel into their heavy rock attack. The ominous "With Eyes Wide Open" bridges early Pink Floyd with Sabotage era Black Sabbath for a chilling effect, and crunchy, bluesy, funky tracks "Our Mother Ash", "The Drum", "Ocean Deep", and "Bound to Be Machines" just scream 1975.
From the songwriting, to the musicianship, right down to the vocals, Trails and Passes is a very strong & enjoyable album from start to finish. Anyone who follows modern hard rock acts such as Graveyard, Witchcraft, Graviators, Kadavar, and Horisont will no doubt find much to love here.
- 4/5 stars
- Pete Pardo
When does a "side project" stop being a side and start being a primary project. Generally, a side project is something you do part time, as an escape or a way to shake things up so you can continue pursuing your main objective. But when your part time job starts to become more important than your full time job then maybe it's time to switch.
Greenleaf is a Swedish band that started as a side project in 2000. That's right, a 14 year side project! They've gone through a number of personnel changes over the last 14 years and currently they feature most of the band Dozer plus a new frontman in the form of the relatively unknown Arvid Jonsson. Jonsson replaces previous vocalist Oskar Cedarmalm for this album.
The rest of Greenleaf includes Dozer drummer Sebastian Olsson, along with founding members guitarist Tommi Holappa and bassist Bengt Bäcke, also of Dozer.
To say the album has a 70's rock feel to it would be an understatement. Some may want to classify the band as "stoner rock" due to their vintage sound. There may be a bit of psychedelia included in the form of an occasional flanger or tremolo in the guitar sound but what we're really dealing with is some good, old fashioned hard rock.
Think of Vanilla Fudge, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath and you'll begin to get a feel for what Greenleaf is doing on "Trails And Passes".
Right off the bat I noticed the record was, let's call it, under-produced. That is to say, it lacks that super-compressed sound found in most modern recordings. The drums especially have a very natural sound to them which I love.
Having spent some time in a recording studio I've seen how the setup for recording goes. Generally speaking, the engineer spends hours miking the drums and setting the sound for each. He carefully tweaks and equalizes the kick, followed by the snare, toms, hi-hat and, finally, the whole kit until he creates an artificial drum sound that is difficult to reproduce in a live setting.
Or worse, he uses "triggers" that cause any impact on the drum to produce a computer generated sound that is equal in volume whether the impact is hard or soft. My point is this... by over-engineering the drums like that, you take away the drummers ability to play subtly and you're left with a drum sound that sounds, well, over-produced.
That is not the case on this record.
The folks that mixed this album did a fantastic job of capturing the actual sound of the band without tweaking and re-tweaking every note. It has a very real feel to it and, for this reviewer, it's a nice change of pace.
Overall, "Trails And Passes" is a hard rock record with a moody feel to it. That is, the songs are mid-tempo rock with a classic guitar sound and driving beats that keep your head bobbing but not banging. And they're not for dancing
There is some groove to be found on "Trails And Passes", though. The opening track, "Our Mother Ash", for example. And for a really good time, check out "The Drum", a 2:50 rock and roll break down, heavy on the drums (go figure), where the guitar follows the vocal melody to very good effect. It's one of my favorites but I'm a sucker for break downs.
As far as the new singer goes, he holds it all together with a pretty unique singing style. Arvid Jonnson's vocals are clean and melodious with just a hint of sadness in them. I found myself drawing comparisons to Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and, to a lesser degree, a slightly higher pitched Jim Morrison.
The material on "Trails And Passes" is not groundbreaking but then Greenleaf does not seem to need to reinvent the wheel. The songs are extremely palatable and take us to a simpler time when rock could just be rock without any artificial nonsense. So, if you're in the mood for a modern take on a classic sound then Greenleaf should be right up your alley.
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.
- Raul Stanciu
Greenleaf started out as a side project for various Swedish stoner and hard rock musicians – a busman’s holiday for members of Dozer, Lowrider, Truckfighters and Demon Cleaner. At this point, however, the band has outlasted many of its seedpods, and gotten better with every record as well. Trails & Passes drops a lot of the more psychedelic elements of the band’s past work to just rock hard and out. “Our Mother Ash” and “Ocean Deep” bash out a one-two punch at the vanguard, setting a tone of ass-kicking t the outset. “Humans” and “Depth of the Sun” vary the tempos and textures but still roar forward on the strength of the riffs of guitarist Tommi Holappa. Greenleaf does take another trip out to Acid Dreamland with the epic “With Eyes Wide Open,” but it’s blazers “Bound to Be Machines” and “The Drum” that win the day. Interestingly, new vocalist Arvid Jonsson boasts a smooth tone that should be at odds with the powerhouse backing; instead, though, he blends right in, letting his near-croon ride the grooves like the Silver Surfer does the cosmic winds. All the elements come together here, making Trails & Passes Greenleaf’s finest alchemical alloy yet.
- Michael Toland
On their new album, Trails and Passes, Scandanavia’s Greenleaf reaches deep and brings everything to the surface. While their 70’s-esque style makes them feel like old spirits the energy they bring to their brand of rock is new and exciting. From opening track Mother Ash to the album closing title track, they keep you excited, pulling musical mastery effortlessly out of the air. The intro to Bound to Be Machines, track eight, is pure joy and endless rapture. I was already hooked on the album by this time and they reeled me in completely and forever right then and there. Triumphant and soaring, Trails and Passes will make you feel like you can accomplish great things and is, to make a long story short, a damn fine album. Since this one won’t be available until May, you have something amazing to look forward to from our friends at Small Stone Records.
– Jim Dodge
Greenleaf has always occupied a unique niche in the world of Swedish stoner rock. As a side band with a rotating roster (comprised of musicians handpicked from the likes of Dozer, Lowrider, Demon Cleaner, and Truckfighters) they exist essentially as the musical equivalent of a superhero team. Part of the fun is seeing who shows up when guitarist Tommi Holappa yells "Avengers assemble!" and what havoc that particular permutation will wreak. As a consequence to all the lineup rotations, Greenleaf have exhibited a chameleon-like quality to shift from muscle car fuzzouts ("Witchcraft Tonight") to struttin blooze ("Stray Bullit Woman") to haunting epic ("Nest of Vipers").
On their fifth and latest album Trails & Passes Holappa and mainstay bassist Bengt Backe are joined by newcomers Arvid Jonsson on vocals and Sebastian Olsson on drums. The resulting record is decidedly mature on the surface but deceptively subversive at its core, a dichotomy which actually extends to the visual presentation as well. The beautiful front cover artwork could easily be mistaken for one of those discs on display at the Starbucks counter for people to use as a soundtrack for their Sunday afternoon hikes. Take one look at the outdoorsy group shot on the inside however and you see the band looking like a bunch of guys that just got through disposing of a body in the woods.
Trails & Passes kicks off in blistering fashion with leadoff track "Mother Ash", a full-throttle rocker highlighted not only by Holappa's nimble guitarwork but by the mellifluous vocals of the golden-throated Jonsson. The riffage continues to spew forth like molten blasts of magma on "Equators", replete with cowbell and monolithic fuzz, and "Depth of the Sun" which features rhythmwork from Backe and Olsson that joyously harkens back to Jones and Bonham circa Led Zeppelin I. The focus nonetheless remains on Tommi's guitar, as evidenced on "Humans" with its funky strutting riffs and scorching solo.
"With Eyes Wide Open" begins with a scraping intro that segues into a laid-back spacey vibe. With the refrain of "open up your eyes, don't trust their lies" chanted over hypnotic tribal drumming, the track is easily the record's resident smokeout bong star and would easily be the best tune on the album if not for the monumental title track. Over fuzzed-out bass and a hard charging beat, "Trails and Passes" rips along at a driving pace until erupting in a volcanic avalanche of searing licks. By the time it's done, you're volunteering to go back on the trails and passes with them to help dispose of more bodies.
Two years on from their last album, Nest of Vipers, Greenleaf return earlier than usual. Being a side project of sorts, featuring members of many of the Scandinavian stoner rock scene bands from the early 00s (Dozer, StoneWall Noise Orchestra, Demon Cleaner and more), has lead to infrequency in output previously. Meanwhile, Oskar, of Truckfighters, has now vacated vocal duties, presumably to focus on his day job.
Nest... had some highlights but was a slightly frustrating listen, never kicking on into the great album it could have been. But something unexplained but fundamental has changed, with Trails and Passes Greenleaf have grown into their sound, assuming control of their destiny with what seems like a more dedicated attention, to go a long way to meeting their potential.
The album has an aura surrounding it from the off - I want to say an air of cool, but it's more an understated, relaxed and assured approach which creates a welcome atmosphere that permeates the listening experience throughout. The opening Our Mother Ash is frankly superb, hinting towards a taking on board of a Graveyard influence to song writing, but not overly so as to invite claims of changing tack to suit the times. Ocean Deep is a beautiful follow up, cementing that vibe, grandiose but never overblown; restrained, ably suited to new vocalist Arvid Jonsson's approach.
There is variance from the almost placid mentality, the Clutch-ish playful riffs in Humans and The Drum invoking a quickening of pulse. The penultimate track Bound to be Machines is excellently crafted stoner rock whichever way you look at it, with a riff that could sit well on a Truckfighters album.
I may have overstated the mellowness of the album, it isn't necessarily in the sound itself, but instead in it's DNA, from Jonsson's controlled vocals to the settling mood it creates. It has a couple of weaker moments where that encompassing feel doesn't travel over with, but on the whole Trails and Passes is an excellent album. To my mind, it's Greenleaf's finest hour, and the best stoner rock album by anyone of 2014 to date.
Staff Rating: Crank this to 8.5 of 11
Genre: Stoner rock
Sounds Like: Dozer, Truckfighters
First off, we would like to thank Small Stone Records for helping to keep the stoner rock genre alive and well. They are a label that continues to pump out talented artists that either carry that stoner rock torch or inject some new and fresh ideas into this genre, either way, they all deserve some recognition. One of these bands is the Sweden-based Greenleaf, although they have been around for fourteen-plus years and released six albums; we consider them to be a bit obscure to the masses.
Started as a side project from Tommi Holappa, guitarist of the mighty Dozer and other various musicians, Greenleaf released their first EP in 2000. Through the years they have had revolving members come and go, but the one constant mainstay in the band is Tommy. Their style of stoner rock has always been straight forward, fast-paced and trippy at times along with tons of spacious jams that will put you in a tailspin.
On their newest and sixth release, Trails and Passes, they continue with this style of sprawling stoner rock and it’s a good thing, why change a formula that works so well. That’s an impressive feat to accomplish throughout the years, since each album featured different members. New singer Arvid Jonsson fits right into this formula flawlessly. His clean, powerful and sometimes laid back vocal style never hinders the music; it actually blends in naturally and benefits the album. The quick-paced opener "Our Mother Ash" has a Dozer quality to it, we love the fact they inject some background vocals into this song. We will hear these backing vocals throughout the album, giving it a spacious, open feel. The next cut, the aptly named "Open Deep" just flows at a pace that will have you mesmerized, very impressive, also the percussion here is infectious. One of the stand out tracks for us is "Equators," the rhythm here just sticks with you, the vocals and drums just feed off each other very well.
With tracks like "Depth of the Sun" and "Humans," the album just keeps delivering one quality song after another. These are not the traditional cookie cutter stoner rock songs; they are involved and thought out well. Again, the rhythm just sucks you in and the lyrics are intriguing as well. The atmospheric "With Eyes Open Wide" is eight minutes and seven seconds of tripped-out spacious rock. The falsetto vocal range layered over the background vocals is quite impressive, something we do not hear enough of in this genre. If you’re on the fence with them, just listen to the catchy "The Drum," it is very likeable and you’ll no doubt be a converted fan. The last two tracks, "Bound to be Machines" and "Trails and Passes" keeps this ship flying. They have it all: monstrous jams, spacious vibes and driven stoner rock tempos.
Greenleaf has been steady and busy for a side project, as Trails and Passes is another great chapter for the band. We have no doubt they will become a mainstay in your collection of stoner rock. And if you’re new to them, this is a perfect album to get into, and then the fun will start as you have five other albums to explore.
If you have to be brought up to speed on Greenleaf, you’re way behind the power curve; they’ve become somewhat of an institution in the underground (Swedish) rock scene, and ‘Trails & Passes’ sees them driving into an arena where the crowd has no choice but to wake the fuck up and take notice. Over the course of fifteen years and five outstanding albums, including the awesome ‘Secret Alphabets’ (2003) and ‘Agents Of Ahriman’ (2007), we’ve watched the band transform from a riff rocking side project to a multidimensional genre defining act. Mainstays Tommi Holappa (guitars) and Bengt Backe (bass) have been the consistent axe wielding “grand puppeteers“, orchestrating jam after jam after jam with a constant influx of top notch musicians to help realize their vision. Now joined by vocalist Arvid Jonsson (who replaced current Truckfighters vocalist Oskar Cedermalm) and drummer Sebastian Olsson, the band has unearthed all the best bones and nuggets from their previous efforts and distilled a sound that’s the perfect blend of mood, blues, and nut crushing rock and roll.
If you’re a fan of Dozer, it’s hard not to like Greenleaf; if you’re a fan of exceptional music in general, it’s impossible not to love Greenleaf. From opener, ‘Our Mother Ash’, it’s clear that all the characteristic ‘Holappa-isms‘ are present: that slightly trebly, fuzzed out bite of a guitar tone, those nimbly played blues flourishes, that ear for the almighty hook; that being said, superior chops are superior chops and we’ve come to expect this (yeah, we’re spoiled when musicians are not only great, but consistently great). So the real reward is hearing newcomers Jonsson and Olsson carve their niche in Greenleaf‘s legacy. Jonsson’s croon has a Frederik Norton (Dozer, ex-Greenleaf) edge to it with a splash of southern drawl; it’s a seamless transition, and after the first couple of minutes, it’s hard to imagine this latest incarnation of the band without him. Olsson, however, might out nudge him for the limelight as ‘Our Mother Ash’ sees him adopt a ‘Charged’ era Ruben Romano (Nebula) ‘catch your breath‘ cadence; it’s high tempo, high energy, and a damn near sprint out of the starting gate.
But this is just a smidgen of what Olsson brings to the table; just wait until the melodic prog shuffle of ‘Ocean Deep’ or the knee slapping romp of ‘Equators’ kicks in. The latter boasts some of the hardest hitting, shit hot drum fills of the entire album. Holappa and Backe synchronize a “call and response” blues lead riff that plays off of Olsson’s battery. The band as a whole is tip top tight and at about the 2:50 mark deliver a calculated bare bones doom strike that’s just a head banging blast.
Greenleaf is one of those rare bands that’s able to maintain a trademark sound while hashing out new, fresh ideas; each of their albums stands on its own with its own unique flavor. Whether it’s the moodier, brooding pound of 2012′s ‘Nest Of Vipers’ (due at least in part to Daniel Liden’s involvement; there are distinct similarities to Dozer’s ‘Beyond Colossal’ which he co-produced) or the straight up, stripped down highway rock of ‘Agents Of Ahriman’, each album sets the standard and delivers. However, ‘Trails & Passes’ is unique because it manages to extract all the best elements of their previous four albums and make something greater than the sum of its parts. Maturity and stellar songwriting are clear on the excellent ‘With Eyes Wide Open’; a similarity to their classic ‘Sleep Paralysis’ is obvious in the song’s quiet momentum and sparse opening arrangements; Holappa chimes in with some cool reverbed psyched out guitar effects as the song builds, but it’s Jonsson’s convincing delivery that seals the deal. As he repeats, “…open up your eyes, don’t trust their lies…“, the song erupts with a grand scale (emotional) impact reminiscent of Dozer’s ‘Big Sky Theory’; Greenleaf nails it here as the song shows every member in top form, and is crafted to highlight their talents in just the right way.
There’s something for everyone on this record, as ‘The Drum’ brings it home with an old school 70s ‘Stray Bullet Woman’ southern groove; but driving album finale ‘Trails & Passes’ sees the band in full alternative rock mode, with a sleek arpeggio lick that bridges to one hell of a chorus hook. The track’s melodic leanings show the band broadening its appeal and accessibility without losing its edge. Bottom line: Holappa and Co. once again deliver the goods.
Not much to criticize and everything to praise on this latest from Greenleaf. No doubt a breakthrough for the band, and an album this good won’t stay underground for long. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the best of 2014. Essential.
- Jeremy Moore
Former Swedish sideproject Greenleaf is back with more righteous rock and roll on their newest album Trails & Passes. The new nine-track album falls well within the band's comfort zone with its consistent heavy groove and always satisfying rumble.
Even with the addition of Arvid Jonsson (vocals) and Sebastian Olsson (drums), Dozer veterans Tommi Holappa (guitar) and Bengt Bäcke (bass) drive the familiar formula that has preserved what started as a Dozer side project into what Holappa now considers his primary band (with Dozer becoming a side project). Greenleaf never misses a beat in establishing what this band is about.
The opener Our Mother Ash does it for them. It immediately opens with a percussion-driven beat offset by thunderous riffs. It sets the pace and tone of album, alluding to a presence that deserves to be bowed down to upon arrival. "Dreams will fall, hit on the ground."
Trails & Passes leads to some beautifully strange destinations.
The second track is even better, with its full-throttle classic rock swagger. The melody and crunchy bass work lay down the foundation for tightly formed solos. Heavy rock doesn't get much better.
At more than five minutes, it isn't hard to find dozens of natural openings for the band to break away from their pages and pound out a few jam session styled solos during any live set. As is, Ocean Deep is everything heavy rock can be, densely beautiful with measured amounts of quickly repetitive and wildly individualized intensity. It's arguably the finest track on the album and keeps good company.
Equators follows with a steady driving beat accented by some power blues, bass, and cowbell. The composition is classic: a rolling midrange punctuated by intense drum work and occasional guitar bursts. Depth Of The Sun loads up on a haunting open before a meandering odyessey-infused fable. Humans rounds out the top half of the album and provides a smoky breath before one final build.
Humans also makes for great lead into the experimental open of With Eyes Wide Open. The epic 8-minute heavy brooder drones on through much of the composition, opening up much later (maybe too late) shortly after the four-minute mark. The change in tempo is welcome, even if the band never finds any real urgency for it. The Drum comes across as a stark and welcome contrast, quickly playing itself out in just over two minutes. Get that one.
The album closes out on Bound To Be Machines and Trails & Passes. The former fills up on the Greenleaf formula while the title track brings Trails & Passes to its natural conclusion. The vocals aren't as strong on Trails & Passes as they could be, but the instrumental work makes up for it with the band finally finding some urgency to close out the album.
Trails & Passes is an album with peaks and valleys, making it possible to stick with some of the highlights alone. Must-have tracks include Ocean Deep and The Drum. The balance largely depends on individual tastes, with Equators, Depth Of The Sun, and Trails & Passes likely rounding out mine.
Trails & Passes By Greenleaf Rocks 6.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
- Richard Becker
There are many young talents currently in the gritty sound but when dogs are old genre, it's natural to return with another great album that emphasizes hard enough enviable discography to be remembered as great in the present days.
Swedish Greenleaf come better than ever with their sixth studio album called "Trails & Passes" , excluding the first EP titled and presentation of the band in 2000.'s new album Swedish is one of the best hidden treasures for a powerful seal genre like Small Stone Records in a spring full of big releases by Seal Michigan .
The band formed in 1999 was a side project bands like Dozer or Demon Cleaner , indeed, some of its components such as singer Fredrik Nordin or their guitarist Tommi Holappa have contributed, the latter is an original member of the band and an essential part for her along with bassist Bengt Backe, the only component that has always been active since the early days. In the case of the singer was a participant in the first two papers of Greenleaf . There have also been other project members as Bulldozer or newly posted Truckfighters . Our beloved "Ozo" (AKA Oskar Cedermalm ) joined the band from 2007 to disk "Agents Of Ahriman" , this and subsequent "Nest Of Vipers" were their contributions.
The new album has not been free of lineup changes, the band is only Holappa Tommi on guitar and Bengt Backe low as the initial members, with new signings Sebastian Olsson on drums and vocalist Arvid Jonsson , completing the current quartet.
"Trails & Passes" is a faster twist in their sound, a more stripped approach to composition, in which the Swedes seem to be geared towards a heavy stoner rock that this album easily ranks as one of the best of the year in style without any doubts.
The lack of a guitarist does not seem to affect a large desert scene in the Scandinavian lands as Mr. Holappa . At times this character leaves us great moments to remember that they make a record like "Trails And Passes" an indisputable jewel of stoner contemporary, but while these words.
Since the song itself "Trails & Passes" that closes the album an unbeatable way to other topics are as egregious as "Humans" or "With Eyes Wide Open" where we see a Greenleaf fresh, direct and dramatic.
Work that contains brilliant moments, bassist Bengt Backe sounds better than ever in his career. Shape the perfect pairing with Holappa to give that spark of distortion in point. Nor does anything wrong Arvid Jonsson to micro, which is defended from sweetest moments as containing "Ocean Deep" more electrifying as parts "Equators" .
"The Depth Of The Sun" gives one of the best and most machacones riffs work. Fantastic again Tommi Holappa the ropes in one of those catchy songs chorus. "Humans" intense moments left for work and great contribution Backe on bass. "White Eyes Wide Open" is not only the longest track of the disk, but is also one of the most complete. A first portion dominated by experimentation and reflection in the lyrics of the band, to make a final cut dominated by higher decibels and one of the best parts of the disc.
"The Drums" at times breathe air hendrixianos , but with songs like "To Be Bound Machines" or the initial "Our Mother Ash" where we see a better version purely sandy these Swedes. Incontestable guns that elevate the quality of a supreme drive. And you can say that disc closure? To say that it is superb to fall short, sound and devastating pace to Greenleaf playing here at breakneck speed to give a closing party in style.
If their previous album left a good impression, his new job does the same offering one of the best versions of the band to date. Greenleaf are the perfect answer to the question that no matter how many lineup changes may be on the side , the sound of them still intact and "Trails & Passes" will be safe and securely upon the best of the year. Has every reason and a potential as good as thunderous.
As a last detail to remember that Greenleaf pass through Spanish land on his European tour promoting "Trails & Passes" . The dates are November 28 in Barcelona and a day later in Madrid . For more stoners definitely becomes one of the most appetizing treats for this year.
- Rating: 8.5
- Ruben Herrera
Discovering this band entices the same excitement as dropping the needle on a rare vinyl record. This sounds like a lost treasure from back in the day when experimental rock ala- Sir Lord Baltimore, Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac, & early-Blue Oyster Cult, Trails & Passes invoked a non-stop boogie aura to the sonics of stoner rock. As the groove touches upon the lean and mean jam session, Greenleaf leaves the whole snail racing charred wasteland behind as the grinding riffage grips proving that these guys know where to set the overdrive knob to give it enough brutality, while forbidding chaos to take over.
While “Equators” & “Our Mother Ash” possess a psychotic angle to power pop, it’s the chugging grooves of “Bound to be Machines” & “Humans” that keep the room filled with thick THC laden smoke with sublime temperament, all executed loudly. Overall, a stunningly vicious and essential ‘new’ classic hard rock manifest.
- Tommy Hash
Yesh, it's time to deal with one more trippy psych-tinged / Retro-oriented release able to create quite a buzz in the underground Rock scene where there is already a following behind the name GREENLEAF (mainly because of the DOZER guitarist Tommi Holappa), so I bet this band’s fifth long-player, named “Trails & Passes”, was highly anticipated by the fans and the media.
Having the two quarters of the band replaced by Sebastian Olsson and Arvid Jonsson on drums and vocals respectively, Swedish 70s-laden rockers GREENLEAF offer one more masterpiece full of mouth-watering guitar leads, fiery basslines and a Retro-colored voice that I think will become this album’s big revelation. I mean, Arvid will draw most of the attention with his tinkling timbre that adds a really cool and old-fashioned layer to the band’s sound. The groovy catchiness of “Our Mother Ash” sounds like it came straight from the 70s with the greatly influenced THE WHO / early DEEP PURPLE structure, the hippie, airy vocalisms and the to-die-for vintage guitars putting the song into repeat-mode right away. “Ocean Deep” delivers the goods with the same respect for the ‘flower-children’ decade, maintaining an old-fashioned style in every instrument, while Arvid’s voice sounds like the perfect match to the music that will make you think it’s the mid-70s again. In pretty much the same wavelength are the Hendrix-esque “Equators” and THE TURTLES-laden “Depth Of The Sun”, while “Humans”, my personal favorite “With Eyes Wide Open” and “The Drum” outreach to a more modern sensation, bringing forward the band’s known trippy, psych-ed Stoner Rock virtues. Last but not least, the closing and self-titled track in a way sums all the element GREENLEAF used in this album wrapped in a finger-licking mixture of the old and the new, a strange yet alluring blend of sounds, colors and fragrances, being the perfect soundtrack for long-distance walks through trails & passes.
Small Stone Recordings gave a breath of life to one more Rock masterpiece and I’m sure it will be in many end of the year lists (mine’s too). To put it simple: if you really like THE SWORD’s “Apocryphon” then you will treat “Trails & Passes” with equal amounts of love.
- Maria Voutiriadou
Only 2 years after the release of Nest Of Vipers, Borlänge based Swedes are going to serve us their 5th studio album Trails & Passes. The only two continuous band and founding members Tommi Holappa (git/Dozer) and Bengt Bäcke (bass/studio engineer for Dozer, Demon Cleaner, Lowrider) are still aboard. But with Arvid Jonsson (voc) and Sebastian Olsson (drums) we are welcoming two new bandmembers. Especially the change on the mic is reasonable because Oskar Cedermalm is too busy with his ambitious Truckfighters. But let’s bring the music into focus! If you get a new Greenleaf record it’s predictable that it will be a solid rock album like the ones before. They are not like bands as QOTSA or Metallica, where every release sounds different. Greenleaf have their own, steady style and it makes them down-to-earth. It’s good to see they won’t exceed their latest album every time! They just want to make good music and they are great in what they’re doing!
The typical Greenleaf sound is based on the good old 70′s but spiced up with mighty stoner riffs and some psychedelic interludes. Even though there are two new members, the chemistry between these four guys is amazing. Bengt and Sebastian lay the foundation with incredibly groovy rhythms, just like they’re playing together for 20 years. Tommi plays his very own style, some people would say it’s Dozer-style but it’s simply Tommi-style. He’s one of the rare guitarists whose sound has this huge recognition value. Heavy fuzz riffs and catchy melodies surerly can be found in thousands of bands but I always pick out Tommi’s great sound. Last but not least the new singer Arvid is more than just a substitution for Oskar. He has a great voice and fits perfectly into the Greenleaf music. Sometimes he is pushing the whole song to another level. Anyhow, he is a great choice for Greenleaf!
The whole album is a mighty heavyrock tribute to the 70′s till now. There is not a single little weakness or a song that seems misplaced, no insincere divergence from their sound to gain a wider fan-base. It’s just the music these guys want to play. It’s honest, pure and you can feel it while listening to them! But some songs are shining out, especially the longest one With Eyes Wide Open. It has a very psychedelic, spacy intro with lots of echo and passes into a calm groovy part. The rhythm section carries the song while Tommi supports with reserved volume and effects. Arvids dreamful vocals are slightly raising the song until it becomes a true riff monolith! Amazing song! For sure it may fit on every Dozer album but as already mentioned, that’s Tommi’s sound! The Drum on the other hand could be a tribute to amazing drummers like Bonzo or Bill Ward…Hats off Mr. Olsson! Our Mother Ash has this great good-mood-vibes in it’s fast and powerful sound and the title track unites all the merits of that great album.
Well, congratulations to Borlänge! Nice work! And it’s good to know that Greenleaf remains faithful in what they do! Trails & Passes is not only for stonerheads or retro-fans, it’s for people who cherish honest, self-made rockmusic!
- Geschrieben von kevrocks
With their fifth album, Trails and Passes, Swedish heavy rockers Greenleaf hit reset — and not for the first time. After the grandiose feel of 2012′s Nest of Vipers (review here), the one-time side-project of Borlänge-based Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa parted ways with the bulk of its lineup, including vocalist Oskar Cedermalm (also Truckfighters), guitarist Johan Rockner (also Dozer) and drummer Olle Mårthans (also Dozer). That would be enough change for any band to go through in two years’ time, but Trails and Passes (released by Small Stone) also marks a considerable turn in methodology, and where Greenleaf formerly played host to numerous guest appearances from countrymen luminaries like Lowrider vocalist Peder Bergstrand (who also sang on the initial Greenleaf EP back in 2000; someday it will be mine), Dozer guitarist/vocalist Fredrik Nordin (who also sang on the first two Greenleaf full-lengths, 2001′s Revolution Rock and 2003′s Secret Alphabets), organist Per Wiberg (formerly of Opeth and now in Spiritual Beggars) and others, this time around, it’s a four-piece band and that’s it. You get guitar, bass, vocals and drums. Simple, and more to the point, tour-able. For Greenleaf to hit the road before would’ve required a family band, but with the inclusion of new vocalist Arvid Jonsson and drummer Sebastian Olsson, the band sounds ready to bring this material to a live setting and capture its rawer appeal in full force. Whether or not the album was produced with the intent of Greenleaf shifting into being a harder-touring act, I don’t know – Dozer‘s hiatus seems to be ongoing, so it’s easy to imagine Holappa getting the itch — but it works out that way anyhow. There are some more complex vocal arrangements on songs like “Depth of the Sun” and the title-track, but on the whole, Trails and Passes feels more stage-primed than anything Greenleaf has produced in over a decade.
Of course, while there are no shortage of changes at hand with the nine-track/42-minute run of Trails and Passes, there’s plenty of continuity as well. As with Nest of Vipers, instrumental recording for Trails and Passes was helmed by former Greenleaf, former Demon Cleaner and current The Old Wind drummer Karl Daniel Lidén, and the partnership between Holappa and bassist/co-founder Bengt Bäcke remains central to the course of this material. One need hear only the interplay of guitar and bass on the later cut “The Drum” to get a sense of the pervasive chemistry between them. Some of Jonsson‘s vocals come in a style not so dissimilar from Cedermalm‘s, particularly on tracks like “Ocean Deep” and “Equators,” and Holappa‘s songwriting also makes for a consistent factor tying Trails and Passes to Greenleaf‘s prior work. The guitarist is one of heavy rock’s finest craftsmen — period — and cuts like those already mentioned as well as the hook-minded opener “Our Mother Ash,” the funk-via-Clutch‘s-”Profits-of-Doom” of “Humans” and the eight-minute exploratory build of “With Eyes Wide Open” serve all the more as a showcase for songwriting with the relative lack of frills surrounding. Trails and Passes emerges as an album that’s exceedingly easy to listen to on repeat. “Our Mother Ash” and “Ocean Deep” set up a series of tradeoffs between straight-ahead rockers and more contemplative material that continues until “Trails and Passes” caps with a blend of the airier elements at work on “Depth of the Sun,” “With Eyes Wide Open” and “Bound to be Machines” and the irresistible push of the cowbell-infused “Equators” (on which both Lidén‘s production and Olsson‘s creative fills are distinguished) and the have-chorus-will-travel “The Drum,” Bäcke serving as the foundation for a finale worthy both of Greenleaf‘s past efforts and the considerable achievements of their current incarnation.
That’s not to say that those songs answering the more straightforward material — but for the exception of “Bound to be Machines” at 4:15, they’re also longer, but by then the structure is shifting anyway heading into the closer — aren’t also ridiculously catchy. “Depth of the Sun” is the most resonant of the initial impressions Trails and Passes makes, with Jonsson carrying a melody built to implant itself in heavy rotation on the listener’s mental jukebox, and somehow, amid all the experimental guitar noise and ambience of “With Eyes Wide Open,” Greenleaf still find room for a triumph of a hook, Jonsson this time channeling his inner Fredrik Nordin hitting a falsetto as the instrumental build approaches its payoff. The contrast comes not in how memorable the songs are, but in how they get there. Perhaps the most glaring of the switches is that between “With Eyes Wide Open” and “The Drum.” The former track comes out of “Humans” with a sprawling feel that only gets wider as it progresses, and “The Drum” takes hold immediately, is done in under three minutes, and is a work of pure catchiness and classic heavy swing. Its steady funk and groove are present as well in “Humans,” “Equators,” and “Our Mother Ash” — though the opener and closing title-track seem to be in conversation with each other too — but nowhere is that taken quite as deeply to the root as on “The Drum,” bringing the dynamic movement from one vibe to another on Trails and Passes into its starkest relief. One could and I’d be more than happy to argue this dynamic is a modus derived straight from heavy ’70s rock, but for Greenleaf, it’s also an update of what they’ve been doing all along. Even going back to 2001′s Revolution Rock full-length debut, their allegiance has been to traditional forms, so as much as Trails and Passes is moving forward in lineup and execution, it’s by no means letting go of what has made Greenleaf so special all along. As a fan of the band, I’m also glad to see Trails and Passes come just two years after Nest of Vipers, as opposed to the half-decade between that album and its predecessor, Agents of Ahriman. Whether that also serves an an indicator with the stripped down approach of Greenleaf looking to become more active overall remains to be seen, but if so, Trails and Passes makes for a resounding new beginning from which to progress.
- H.p. Taskmaster
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.