Monday, 25 August 2014

Saturn - Ascending (Live In Space) (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: TBC
Label:  Rise Above Records

"Ascending (Live in Space)" CD/LP tracklisting:

1.  So, You Have Chosen Death 04:42
2.  Rokktori 04:43
3.  Over the Influence 08:24
4.  Leadersheep 04:25
5.  Peasant 05:05
6.  Tower of Terror 06:50
7.  Last Man In Space 07:37
8.  Moonstone 02:16

The Band:

Oscar Bo Valentine Pehrson | Bass, Vocals, Organ
Robin Tidebrink | Guitar, Vocals
Linkan Lindgren | Guitar, Vocals
Ted Carlsen | Drums


Channelling the heady sound of the late 60's early 70's Saturn rings you in and sends you right out to space.  Zeppelin-esque hard rock abounds here with some spidery guitar work, driving bass, and pounding drums.  Weirdly the album begins with a riff that channels some serious "Master of Puppets" vibe then swerves hard for the 70s with some nice open space choruses.  I love it when bands cut the instruments out briefly and have the singer just sing a verse (example of this for those of you not music nerds Black Sabbath "The Wizard," "War Pigs").  "Leadersheep" has some cool rhythm riffing that reminds me of a strange blend of "Communication Breakdown" with vintage Spirit Caravan era Wino but with better singing and a slick short Buck Dharma-esque Middle Eastern vibe solo.

Love the trippy slidework intro to Rokktori, I wish more people played slide but it is somewhat difficult to play for some people (OPEN TUNINGS!?!? OH NOES).  The univibe/Leslie opening riff on "Tower of Terror" is pretty sweet too leading into some tasty lead work which dominates throughout the song.  Some nice organ/keys work lays a nice undercurrent on this track and I would be inclined to say it's one of the best tracks on the album.  "Last Man in Space" has some cool psych moments and channels a bit of Hawkwind in parts with some cool prog song structure and oddball vocal effects.  A nice groove settles throughout most of the middle of the track and the guitar solo is short but blues-shredtastic.  Weirdly "Last Man in Space" has a section around the five minute mark which has a very similar feel/chord progression to the highly underrated Metallica classic "Orion" and I mean that in a really good way.  The rhythm section does a fantastic job on this track and it is the best track on the album boasting the most interesting song writing and the most fully realized sound.    

The final track "Moonstone" has some nice acoustic playing channeling some of your favorite Zeppelin moments although it does seem to end somewhat abruptly.  "Moonstone" has some very nice singing and centers as a showpiece for whomever is doing lead vocals.  Oddly the band lists both guitarists and the bass player as being vocalists and don't denote a lead but if they are changing, whoever is doing lead vocals I can't tell the difference between them, which is crazy if they switch to have three people that good at singing who sound that much alike in the same band.  That being said the vox is good across the board and the background vocals are great throughout.

I can honestly say the only thing I didn't like about this album is the track "Peasant".  For no particular reason, the song reminded me of meeting someone and instantly wanting to knock their teeth out despite them not having done anything to warrant it (like the fat kid from Superbad who lost weight and is now kinda fat but not as fat as he was).  I also harbor a similar hatred for the Rolling Stones' song "Dear Doctor" off Beggars Banquet.  Which if Mick Jagger were to ever sing in front of me I would have to invite him to my house and let him drown in my pool.   

From the smooth Marshally tones, to the Robert Plant vocal stylings, Saturn exhibit their influences immediately.  What sets them apart is the quality of the production and songwriting.  They do a really great job of doing a modern version of a retro production instead of a full retro production, which most smaller bands tend not do well due to the cost constraints of doing everything full analog.  Or you'll see bands do the full analog production then clearly not have enough money for a good master.  In addition, a lot of the current crop of bands doing the 70s revival feel like they are using the 70s equipment to master which can make some of the parts fade in and out during certain sections unintentionally.  Some things are better digital, pick the right tools for the right job. 

Everything here really pops out at you throughout the album and has great clarity.  The band and whoever engineered/mastered Ascending (Live in Space) really did an exceptional job here and the production really brings the songs alive and allows you to really get into the band.

As an aside this record confirms my belief that Sweden is fucking awesome.  Literally we are experiencing an underground Swedish invasion of awesome bands over the past couple of years and it's staggering to think how much quality is coming out of such a small country (population wise). 

Words By:  Chris Tedor

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