King Of Sweden, formed in Finland in 2019, has released the group’s debut album The Training. The band is a three-piece consisting of guitarist and singer Sampsa Nelimarkka, drummer Janne Savela and bass player Erkka Heinilä. The trio had played together before, but with Sampsa Nelimarkka playing the bass and Erkka Heinilä playing the guitar. For this project they decided to reverse those roles, and they consider that was key decision in giving the trio its sound.
Musically, we are talking of a band steeped in the vintage 1970’s tradition, with classic prog acts like King Crimson, Genesis, and Yes being a starting point. But there is also a strong heavy rock element displayed which suggests acts such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple to the fore too, particularly with the lead guitar. Unlike many of the vintage prog bands of that era though, there’s also a trace of the blues in the mix as well. It also sounds like the band likes to improvise somewhat, many of the tunes displaying jamming type atmospheres. In line with vinyl recordings of that classic era, the album is about forty-three minutes long.
Unlike many of their influences though, King Of Sweden like to keep the sound loose. There’s none of the phenomenal musicality of Yes, the intricate structuring of King Crimson, or the dazzling arrangements of Genesis but a rather relaxed feel that often gives the music a psychedelic air, perhaps even nodding towards spacerock on one or two occasions. The music is largely instrumental, with Sampsa’s rather gruff voice capturing the attention once in a while. It is the interplay of the three musicians that is the undoubted highlight of the release. It would have been quite easy for Erkka’s guitar to be too dominant given the style of the music, but his work is well balanced by that of his band mates. Authenticity for the vintage prog vibe is also helped by the production not being overly pristine. That is not to say that it is cloudy or muffled in anyway, but there is enough grit left in the mix to allow a decent atmosphere. There’s also a little saxophone playing along the way from Sampsa which provides a tinge of colour. You feel that adding keyboards to this recording would have been wrong, it really doesn’t need the amorphous swirl of a sound generator to enhance it. The album track lengths vary between two and a half minutes to just over thirteen minutes, which allows the band to treat the longer tunes almost as little suites. Indeed, the eight-and-a-half-minute Help Arrives is split into three sections, so there is an eye on developing songs and having some musical ambition.
This is an appealing album. The tunes are well written and played and the band shows purpose and intent. The group interactions are impressive. Where the band are able to take this in future should be a positive move. The classic sounds of the prog giants can only be mined for so long before any release becomes a pick-and-mix selection, but the band appears to have enough nous and musicianship to steer that course. This is an album to live with to allow it to mature.
1. Dreaming About The Emerald (3:50)
2. Two Thieves (13:02)
3. In The House Of A Witch (2:24)
4. The Imprisonment (5:21)
5. Help Arrives a) God Uses A Hammer b) Help Arrives c) Butterfly Hatches (8:32)
6. And the Last Enemy to Be Destroyed Is Mathematics (9:50)
Sampsa Nelimarkka – guitar, vocals, saxophone
Erkka Heinilä – bass
Janne Savela – drums, percussion
Release date: 1st October 2021
Label: Crusader Records