In the town of Gävle, there is a long tradition under the name of the Gefle Metal Festival. The name speaks for itself. Since 2016 there is also the Gefle Skivmässa, which translates to Gefle Record Fair. (The spelling of Gefle requires an article on its own and has nothing to do with music, so we'll skip that here.) A record fair, of course, but the evenings have always been filled with live music.
This year, the bill comprised four Swedish bands: Children Of The Sün, Vokonis, Horndal, and Witchcraft, who all had 40 to 60 minutes. Horndal is very metal with a lot of screaming, Witchcraft started out as a doom-metal band but turned to more blues-oriented alternate gothic rock. DPRP's Jerry van Kooten reports on the first two bands, which are the ones that are of most interest to our reader base.
Children Of The Sün
Children Of The Sün are a relatively young band from Arvik, Sweden. Since 2018 they have released two full-length albums (available on vinyl, naturally) after a streaming-only EP debut. I discovered them some time after the second album, so their music has not been reviewed on DPRP.net yet. But ever since, I was waiting for a chance to see them live, and I am certain that this band will be of interest to a lot of readers.
The term "psychedelic rock" as a genre has become a broad one so a little refinement is necessary. Their music is psychedelic rock as you would expect from the late 1960s and early 1970s, based on blues grooves with jazz-inspired melodies and breaks. Think of Jefferson Airplane, The Mamas And The Papas, or Spirit. I find it refreshing that young bands play music like this, offering testament to the timelessness of it.
My worries about the acoustics of the venue appeared to have been unfounded. A round, brick building with a high ceiling, as part of an old factory (production of gas) may not be perfect for live music, but the sound engineer did an amazing job. The mix had room for all instruments during both the silent and the heavier sections.
Starting with The Soul was perhaps a bit of a statement what this band are about, especially in light of the three metal acts that were to follow. A bluesy psychedelic pop rock song with a proggy twist. Hence, my reference to Spirit.
Already in that first song lead vocalist Josefina Berglund Ekholm shows off her vocal powers via her inner Janis. For a moment I was a little worried she would hurt her voice by doing that, but it didn't seem to affect her performance at all, and she kept on doing this in several songs until the end, without any change in performance. She truly has a fine voice for the hippy songs, the rock songs, and the blues songs.
The first half of Reflection is a guitar/vocals-only bit but slowly evolving into a hypnotic, melodic blues with Josefina showing versatility going from one high and loud end to a soft whisper within a few notes. This follows the music of course, and adds to the dynamics of this track, that works very well live.
Songs like Hard Workin Man makes me think this band could easily be an opening act on a longer tour with Dutch band DeWolff as this will appeal to the same kind of audiences.
Leaves keeps prog-minded ears happy when it soars between contrasts with unexpected breaks and a catchy vocal melodies during the choruses.
The audience got a world premiere in Come With Us being played - a song that would be recorded the day after the gig in a studio in Gävle and had never been played live before. It's rocking a bit more, with a longer guitar solo, getting towards Blues Pills territories. While catchy, it also has a few nice twists during some breaks.
Leaving no time to spare, the band's probably most catchy tune follows — Her Game. A bit repetitive in the lyrics, but that and especially the drumming (Johan Lööf) add to the hypnotic effect of the musical style,
Hearing the song introductions not coming from the lead vocalist is unusual, but in this case it took a little while for me to find out it was keyboard player Wilma Ås, as she was, from my perspective, behind the singers and the bass player.
The darker and more mysterious atmosphere in Roots is something I really like in music, and here music shows elements of The Doors as well. Maybe this one even more than the others show the essence of this band's sound. It's the overall sound and atmosphere, music played with heart and soul, more than instrumental prowess. Very effective songwriting that managed to give me goosebumps several times.
Gaslighting is an excellent set closer. Faster and rockier than the others, with the keyboards adding that type of layer my ears like so much, aided by the aforementioned mix being so well-balanced.
The band made the most of the 40-minute slot they were given and showed several aspects of their music and abilities in relatively short songs. I loved it and will keep on following the band and see them again when I have the chance. I do hope to see them where they have time for a longer set and get a chance to jam just a little more. Excellent show, folks!
Intro / The Soul Reflection Hard Workin Man Leaves Willow Tree / Reaching For The Sun Come With Us Her Game Roots Gaslighting
Vokonis are from the city of Borås and play heavy and atmospheric metal with progressive elements in their songwriting. The music has a dark metal as the foundation, longer instrumental passages turning to heavy psychedelics, in roughly the same field as Mastodon or Cathedral, with guitar solos being more melodic and sometimes even bluesy. Their latest two albums, Grapsing Time and Odyssey, are arguably the albums to start with, for readers of DPRP.net. Odyssey was awarded an 8 by my colleague Sergey Nikulichev.
Since the release of the album, personal reasons have led to two changes in the line-up. Playing together with founder Simona Ohlsson (guitar and lead vocals) for about a year now are Sven Lindsten on drums and Oscar Johannesson on bass and vocals.
It might have been the drastic change in musical style after Children Of The Sün, but the sound was not that good for Vokonis at the start. Some distortion effects on the bass were a bit too loud, sometimes drowning out other bits, and Simona's mic had a bit of an echo and was a bit lower in the mix. Slowly this was adjusted, fortunately.
The set opened with a storming Blackened Wings, in which drummer Sven shows he added his own chops to the existing compositions, and a lot at that. His drumming is very up-front, highly energetic, super tight, and drives the music further, which works especially well in live setting. Throughout the show he is showing his power.
From their Facebook page Simona took over all vocal duties right after the previous bass player had to step down because of health issues, it now is clear that new bass player Oscar is gradually taking a space on the vocal front as well, supplying the lower vocal lines and grunts. Especially during the first track, his mic was very high in the mix, but that was solved soon enough. Never a big fan of grunts, I wouldn't mind if they would rewrite those lines, although it is not a big issue.
Next on the set was the title track of their latest album, in which a lot of progressive chops and breaks are on display. I love this song for its changes from the super heavy to the slower but also bluesier Black Sabbath-styled middle section. Here, it occurred to me Simona's vocal lines and performance reminds me of Ozzy's sometimes.
The song ends with a powerful and fast end section before it slows down to segue into the title track of the previous album, Grasping Time. Slower, with Opeth-like melodies on the guitar.
Rebellion is a crushing song in which the grunts contrast nicely with Simona's melodic singing. Super heavy and fast, much to the liking of a large part of the audience, part of which would no doubt stay in their spot for the next act.
But it's a song like Hollow Waters that does more for me. Awesome breaks and build-ups between sections. Very effective vocal melodies over heavy ground layers. I love the psychedelic sounds with progressive breaks.
The last song is announced, the long Through The Depths, where different sections alternate. Hard-riffing to subtle, dark hypnotic parts. The middle section is a lovely, long build-up with melodic guitar play, turning into a heavy psychedelic storm, reminding me that a band like Yuri Gagarin is also on my wish-list.
The set opened and closed with a storm. I usually don't like heavy rain, but I hope we can do this again soon.
From a proghead's point of view I think it would be interesting if the band were bringing a keyboard player for live shows as well, but I also understand that a live show is supposed to sound different to a studio album and that in this sub-genre, the music is to overwhelm. Which it does.
Recordings for their new album have been finished, they said. Can't wait!
Blackened Wings Odyssey Grasping Time Rebellion Hollow Waters Through the Depths