After two years of waiting for a follow up to HAVAH’s sublime piece of surf-rock riffing Adriatic Sea No Surf I was growing worried. Nary a word had been heard from the throaty, low-voiced group, not on their webpage and nowhere else the internet but a few Italian message boards tucked away on the underside of the ‘net, which revealed little more than the fact that the band was, in fact, Italian. And then nothing.
Nothing until the bolt-like strike of their new album, Settimana, anyway. Maybe the delay was a result of the band reevaluating their style: they’ve certainly gone through a bit of an overhaul, trading away the ripping nature of their earlier songs for tunes favoring lower, almost sinister registers (“Giovedi” is something of a growing wave, with the vocals and drums trading off prominence at a measured pace that starts to feel menacing after a spell). Even a song as purely infectious as “Martedi” – one that’s all hook and no bait, sharp and catching and with a rhythm so driving but simple it demands you dance – sounds like it’s rising out of a volcano, heavy as the emphasis on the bass and drums are. Gone are the inscrutable English lyrics and cryptically humorous titles of the first album. No, it seems the band has fully embraced their Italian roots, a change that might, in fact, be for the better. The heavy-but-lyrical rumble of Italian is a perfect complement to the singer’s gravelly vocals and the rolling sound of the guitars and drums, reminding every listener that there are some things the pliant, butter-soft sounds of English just aren’t always built to capture.
The album builds a bit better than the last one, seems more deliberately arranged. “Luned” may, in fact, be one of the greatest album openers in recent memory: in its slow, heavy stomp and somber sounds it spins like the prelude to a play, those cryptic moments before the curtains go up wherein the chorus lays down key points of exposition, promising an album rife with an almost elemental power. And though that might be melodramatic, because it seems unlikely this album is essential or necessary, it certainly does sound like an element, like an avalanche rolling down a rock-face. It’s a rumbling piece of work, one that doesn’t insist on itself as being rough or jagged but simply is by matter of its nature.
It’s sad that releases from the Italian rock world are so rare; though HAVAH’s not the only band from that corner of the musical world, notable forerunners being Litfiba and Dirty Actions, they are one of the few with even the remotest presence beyond their country (which, given how remote that presence is, should tell you something…). A bit of representation for these under-heard voices would be lovely, not for any particularly political reasons but just for a chance to hear and know that, somewhere out there, the kind of sound that put the “rock” in “rock and roll” is still out there, still gaining momentum, still brushing off the moss of yesteryear.