|With riffs that positively drip nostalgic familiarity, Gudars Skymning's music is a bit of a goldmine of musical references.|
|To paraphrase the late, great Grand Funk (Railroad), it's pretty easy to imagine Gudars Skymning opening their sets with "Ladies and gentlemen...we're a Scandinavian band, we're coming to your town, we'll help you party it down...". For, really, that's exactly what they are: a throwback to the blues-based, loud'n'proud heavy rock bands that proliferated on both sides of the Atlantic during the early 1970s.
That's one of the main strands picked up by Italian distributors Black Widow Records, who have an eclectic catalogue which alternates original 70s survivors like High Tide and - why not? - Black Widow with modern emulators such as these,or L'Impero Delle Ombre and a few outright oddities (such as a single album each of Hawklords and Manilla Road). On the whole, and slightly strange though their signings list may be, I find myself recognising and approving of a surprisingly high percentage. Extra kudos for sending out real CDs for review, too, rather than download links: it's always nicer to be able to see the finished product in its entirety.
In this case, it's a neatly-presented, fold-out digipack with accompanying information-filled booklet that you just know - had this actually been released in the 70s - would have been a full-on heavyweight gatefold. There is one small snag, though: it's all in Swedish, which - I suspect - makes it moderately inaccessible to a fair proportion of the world. And makes it all Google Translate's fault if any of the song titles have been mangled into pidgin-English. Anyway, for completeness: the band name translates as 'Twilight Of The Gods' and the album is 'Troubled Water'.
Equally neatly presented is the music within, as delivered by two guitars (one, occasionally, a slide), bass, drums and vocals. It's an line-up without fussiness, rich with co-operation rather than conflict: sounding more like an augmented power trio than a twin-lead attack, eminently suited to the riffing, bassy stomp of a selection of tracks that could have been written, basically, at any time since 1970. And, in point of fact, two of them effectively were. The closer is a direct cover from Mountain's debut 'Climbing, while 'Aldrig Har Jag Vetat' is a rather peculiar hybrid of that same track, 'Never In My Life', that segues into a closing portion based on the end movement of Yes's 1971 'Starship Trooper'. In Swedish. Odd choice, but it works better than it should.
Actually, for the cognoscenti of that period, it's a bit of a goldmine of musical references, whether deliberately or not: with riffs that positively drip nostalgic familiarity, invoking moments of memories of all sorts, from Andromeda to Wishbone Ash. The percussion section steam along at full tilt, backing the largely medium rock tempos with chugging slabs of bass and plenty of hit-things-like-you-mean-it drumming. It's very much true to the spirt of that age, as is main songwriter Kenny-Oswald Sjödin's bluesy bellow, making a fair stab at sounding like Mountain's Felix Pappalardi.
All good so far, then? Well, yes...and a little no. It's a cheerfully-rocking offering, definitely: very listenable, if a little anonymous amongst the crowd of acts that have gone before. What does make it stand out somewhat, unfortunately, is what strikes me as the weakest part of the music: the language. You could make a case for German sounding suitably angular for Darkwave/Electro, for Russian to fit the melancholic mood of Melodic Doom and for extreme Death growling, well, you could probably make the case that Tolkien's Orcish would sound just fine - nobody can understand a word of it, anyway. I don't think the same argument works for Swedish and Heavy Rock, though: the patterns of cadence and inflection just sound a bit wrong, as though it's quite hard work to get a rhythm to the words. It's a bit of a surprise, too, considering how well 'Never In My Life' comes across in its original English, with the vocals sounding really natural - that might have been a better choice to work in throughout.
Still, that's perhaps only a gripe for those who either care a lot about lyrics or have the poor grace to know very few languages (or both, as in my case). It doesn't really compromise the album if all you want to do is crank up the volume and enjoy the authentic vibe; which seems to me to be where the soul of 'Mörka Vatten' lies - in good, old-fashioned, fun broadcast live from enormous Marshall stacks towering against the skyline.
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1. Jag Är En Trollkarl (I Am A Wizard)
2. Södersläntsblues (South Slope Blues)
3. I Muränans Käftar (In Muränans Jaws)
4. Källar-Tony (Basement Tony)
5. Pengar (Money)
6. Aldrig Har Jag Vetat (Never Have I Known)
7. Hyfs Och Fason (Manners And Fashion)
8. I Älvens Svarta Djup (Deep In The Black River)
9. Fri (Free)
10. Never In My Life
Duration : Approx. 45 minutes
Visit the Gudars Skymning bandpage.