We are lucky people, that much is assured. Lucky because the gods gifted us Greenleaf.
For some time I have believed that Sweden had stolen rock and roll. At the top of the most wanted list for this heinous crime is the band from Borlänge Sweden, Greenleaf. Their 2014 release Trails & Passes was my album of the year and the brand new release Rise Above the Meadow picks up right where that album left off.
Of course, this being Greenleaf there has been a change to the lineup for the new album. Bengt Bäcke has been replaced on bass by Dozer alum Johan Rockner (and subsequently by Hans Fröhlich to assure yet another lineup change for the next album). Bengt has been there since the beginning of Greenleaf and will be sorely missed. Since they have been and intend to continue touring so heavily, Bengt’s blindness makes that a difficult proposition though he did make an appearance with the band on the road in Spain in January. The band has moved on after a decade plus with Small Stone Records to Napalm Records with this release.
And what a release it is.
The album opens with A Million Fireflies which hits like a punch in the face. Fittingly it begins with their drummer, Sebastian Olsson who shines throughout the album. Tommi Holappa provides yet another of the legendary riffs that have become his trademark at this point. The song is then torn down to just drums and an almost trance like chant by vocalist Arvid Jonsson only to shake you with the return of heaviness to close it out. The song is the perfect opener, it bloodies your nose and demands your attention.
Howl and You’re Gonna Be My Ruin showcase just how well Arvid Jonsson fits with this band. After he joined the band for Trails & Passes he has always reminded me of a disaffected Robert Plant. His range is impressive and done in a style so relaxed it almost seems too easy for him. The composure he brings is the perfect complement to the truculence of the band around him.
With Pilgrims you get to hear where the most mystical of musical creations, the blues, have ended up in this day and age. Holappa is masterful taking what came before him and turning it into something as true to these times as Blind Willie Walker was to his own. The song is a powerhouse and probably my favorite track on the album (today).
Since I enjoyed Trails & Passes so much I somewhat expected to be letdown by this album. Thankfully that is not the case. I loved Rise Above the Meadow from the first listen, but just like the last album it gets better every time you press play. There is no doubt that Greenleaf is at the top of their game and one of the finest underground heavy bands we have seen in years.