Skraeckoedlan - Sagor - (9/10)
Published on September 16, 2015
The 2011 release of Äppelträdet, the full-length debut from Swedish quartet Skraeckoedlan, heralded the emergence of a mighty new force in the metal stoner-age. A close cousin to the fraternally grooving Truckfighters, the band, whose name translates to something like ‘dinosaur’ or ‘terror lizard,’ delivered on several fronts over the course of those 10 windswept tunes, doling out cool and confident riffery against a sturdy and fuzz-efficient production, and peaked by rousing, affectively clean vocals. The result was a record one could submerge for hours with no fear of leakage or water damage.
After nearly four years, Sagor, their new album, has come to be, taking the modest qualities of its predecessor and inflating them by several degrees…or, perhaps more accurately, if one adheres to the album’s underwater motifs, it immerses itself well below the surface, conjuring scenes of a Bioshock-esque utopia—although one not nearly as distressing—and sending the listener off to explore amongst the kelp and seagrass. And what may they find? What ‘tales’ may they tell?
Initially, Sagor sounds and feels more wide open and much larger than Äppelträdet, and while it lacks the stirring refrains of a “Universe” or a “Cactus,” strong choruses are to be found—“Gigantos” offering up the earliest such example—drifting among the album’s currents and waves of intrepid songwriting. And like so much kicked up silt and sand, Skraeckoedlan are not in the business of settling. A decidedly progressive, almost otherworldly, aura floats about, not in the way of keyboards and so forth, but in the alternative, unsafe directions the band choose to navigate (a maturity and boldness reminiscent of Elder’s Lore) which lends the album a rather adventuresome quality. Aside from singing entirely (?) in Swedish, the group’s unconventionality is perhaps most notable during track number five, “El Monstro,” a bluesy and cruising rocker captained by the soothing vocal work of Matilda Mård.
Naturally, the band title their songs with the names of mythical places and creatures, with the music suiting them accordingly. “Squidman” and “Mothra,” are probably the two most defining songs on the album due to the band’s deference to the almighty jam while staying true to the locked-in visual cues inherent to the song title. The former is a rollicking behemoth of an instrumental track, and the latter exists as the record highlight with its infectious guitar lines, a whirling and psychedelic backdrop, and a slew of creative avenues for dropping into the next set of vibrations. The band’s two-year studio journey has stuffed Sagor with sound and spirit, and ears may certainly prick at the record’s numerous allusions to mid-era Mastodon.
Sagor, like Äppelträdet, is especially inviting and organic, and, at times, quite imposing for a ‘stoner’ album. The fuzz may be a key ingredient here, but the result and lasting impact feels much deeper, fuller, and more complicated than your standard desert or galactic affair. The art of songwriting is not lost on Skraeckoedlan, and their attention to detail, their passion for music, it’s loud, golden, and beautifully clear.