I judge the quality of a song by stripping it down to its barest essentials. If someone can convey a complex idea using just voice and instrument, you know it’s a solid concept. Because it’s way too easy for artists to hide behind lush productions that mask the absence of depth. So pretty much any time I listen to a song, I’m trying to get to that kernel of truth that exists somewhere in the song’s melodies, lyrics, and underlying chord progressions and blocking everything else out.
And as far as evaluation tools go, I think it’s a pretty good one. Because even if I don’t enjoy a song, or its production, I can appreciate its honesty and directness. However, like all processes this one has its weaknesses. The kryptonite for this one is four syllables: heavy metal.
Metal is music. Metal is beautiful. But metal also relies on a groove. It’s not about showing you an exciting moment, or even re-creating one. Instead, metal takes you straight to the moment, an express train chugging along on rails of chunky guitar and drums trying to stay ahead of the beat, like a criminal on the run from the law. So while it’s not an absolute rule, because as we’ve seen, those don’t always hold up anyway, metal depends upon the way the guitars play off of the drums and bass for success. And that’s why Kamchatka’s Hoodoo Lightning is a very cool metal album.
Kamchatka are a Swedish power trio. After breaking up in 2017, they reunited for Hoodoo Lightning. Their sound touches on a lot metal and hard rock influences, but nothing overtly, so their sound is familiar, but difficult to pin down. Drummer Tobias Strandvik takes advantage of the trio’s sonic space with wide, double-bass driven performances that make you wonder if there’s another drummer hiding behind his kit. Singer/guitarist Thomas Juneor Andersson lays down infectious riffs that can only be described as Aerosmith meets Black Sabbath. And bass player Per Wiberg holds everything together, an incredibly important job when dealing with groove-driven music like this.
So how does one judge a groove? For me, it’s all in the neck. If you hear a good piece of metal, your head should nod along with the beat. Thrash metal, of course, will give you whiplash (as Metallica taught us). Kamchatka’s grooves are lower-key. Heavy but not fast. So you nod along at a comfortable pace, like cruising a street late at night and making all of the traffic lights. You feel the speed, but you’re not scared for your life. Andersson’s voice snarls and growls, but with the grit of a good exfoliant, rather than the barbed wire often heard in the heaviest of metal.
Andersson sounds perfect on “Supersonic Universe,” a fast-paced track that features his vocals rising above the aggression, striking more of a bemused, semi-detached tone. Until everything collides in the anger of the chorus. “El Hombre Dorado” has a perfect beat that, of course, passes the head-knod test with flying colors. And “A Drifters Tale” is bouncy, a duet between Wiberg and Andersson doing the Swedish hard rock version of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street.”
Hoodoo Lightning is the type of metal that might appeal to blues rock fans who like to let things get heavy. The songs don’t have the same emotional resonance of classic blues songs and the instrumentation is more blues-inspired, once- or twice-removed, but the riffs will make sense to blues rock lovers. Your head will bob at just the right pace.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– El Hombre Dorado
– Supersonic Universe
– A Drifters Tale
The Big Hit
– A Drifters Tale
Review by Steven Ovadia