Long live rock...
Kadavar are a Swedish three-piece power-rock outfit who like to rawk. And rawk they do, in a most convincing manner, courtesy of endlessly propulsive riffage, dextrous basswork, fluid drumming and reedy vocals in the finest Plant/Osbourne tradition. In fact, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath are the two most obvious predecessors here, but Kadavar manages to suggest both without copying either, all the while introducing unexpected elements into the mix. At only six songs and 35 minutes, Kadavar’s debut is a touch on the short side, but this is the only significant criticism of an otherwise strong album.
The opening one-two punch of “All Our Thoughts” and “Black Sun” is as powerful an opening as you’re likely to hear this year. Both songs are strong rockers that gleefully dispel the idea that heavy rock is a genre too limited in its approach and technique to offer anything new to listeners, while simultaneously differentiating themselves from each other. Album opener “All Our Thoughts” veers between guitar noodling and straightforward thrash, throwing in plenty of sonic wankery for good measure, while “Black Sun” chugs along courtesy of its midtempo verve and an irresistible chord progression. The vocals to both are elliptical, barely comprehensible, inane, and delightful.
“Forgotten Past” slows things even further and introduces an off-kilter time signature (5/4, maybe?) that keeps the listener constantly off balance—not enough to detract from the song, but rather to make it that much more engaging. The Ozzy-like croon/whine vocals are particularly well-suited to the sludgy tempo here, and if the single-guitar attack leaves the sound a touch thinner than some metalheads might like, the inventive guitar picking and basswork ensures that the songs never sound less than epic.
In fact, Kadavar are never content to merely bash out power chords or layer on mutiple tracks in a search for hugeness. The band’s go-to strategy seems to be an emphasis on the back-and-forth between guitar and bass, with percussion making frequent, urgent contributions to the conversation. This is heavy music that doesn’t bash you over the head with its heaviness.
That said, “Goddess of Dawn” sounds an awful lot like a Masters of Reality-era Sabbath, from the dum-dadda-da-dum-dadda-da-dum guitar riff to the wavery vocals to the sudden jumps from section to section within the song. Wisely, the band don’t go to this particular well too often; a little Sabbath influence is wonderful thing, but too much would soon feel derivative. “Goddess of Dawn” is the quickest song here at a bit over four minutes, and follow-up tune “Creature of the Demon” isn’t a great deal longer. These two songs are rather less memorable than what has come before.
Fortunately, Kadavar pull it all back with album closer “Purple Sage”, an eight-minute-plus epic that pulls together the disparate strands evident throughout the album and throws in a few more, in the form of wavering studio effect to lend a spaced-out, psychadelic vibe to the proceedings. Halfway through, and we’re approaching a full-fledged freak-out meltdown. “Purple Sage” could benefit from a bit of judicious pruning—it doesn’t really need to be eight-plus minutes—but that’s beside the point. Having shown their considerable chops in the first five songs, Kadavar are unafraid in their final tune to show their willingness to play around and have a little spacey fun.
“Fun” isn’t a word that’s much associated with hard rock or heavy metal these days. That’s too bad, as there is a lot to be said for it. Kadavar, at least, seem to be having a hell of a lot of fun with their debut record. Rock and rollers of all generations and inclinations should give it a listen. It’s fun, and it kicks. What else do you need?