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The world of psychedelic rock is an odd one. It does have its moments, though. Swedish psych band Dungen makes some of those magical moments come to life in their new album, Häxan.
Häxan isn't the traditional psychedelic record. It's an homage and a soundtrack of sorts; it's following a recent trend of artists going back and making their own soundtracks for past films. Häxan is an original score for The Adventures Of Prince Achmed, the world's oldest surviving animated piece. Thus, this record is full of different moods and different levels of excitement.
Being a score, this album has plenty of filler tracks. Certain movements are slow and dreamy, such as 'Aladdins Flykt Över Havet' and 'Achmed Och Peri Banu.' Some songs also prove to be groovier and jazzier, setting a more sensual tone: see 'Trollkarlen Och Fågeldräkten' and 'Achmed Flyger,' the latter of which sounds like it could be from a video game soundtrack with its adventurous vibe.
This album is peaceful and not overly flashy, as is meant for a score. What's great about it is that you don't need the film playing next to it to understand the record, or the movements of the film. The emotions are set very clearly, the tone doing all the talking. You can tell when climax and events occur, tracks like 'Wak-Wak's Portar' and its distorted guitar and flutes ringing with urgency and without regard for time. The same is true for the closing track, 'Andarnas King,' a jam conclusion with a Lightning Bolt flair.
Häxan is an interesting record. It's a score, but it stands on its own as an interesting record full of events. It does what a score should do best - tell the story independently from the film through sonic interpretation. If anything, it makes you want to see the film in order to understand the tale of the record. Dungen's brilliance shines bright on this record.
Favorite Track: Trollkarlen Och Fågeldräkten
Least Favorite Tracks: Grottan, Den Fattige Aladdin, Aladdin Och Lampan
Rating: 70 / 100
The Warlocks have covered a lot of ground spanning their nearly two decade long career. They started off with long, drawn out jams spanning well over ten minutes. The eventually began shortening the lengths of their tracks in favor of something more confined. Their 7th album Songs From The Pale Eclipse is full of mid-tempo, condensed psychedelic rock tracks that the band has evolved to make, but none of them really amount to much.
Psychedelic rock's purpose is to take you on some sort of trip. This album doesn't feel like a psychedelic rock record as much as it does a full hour's study on the same mood. The one track on this album that feels definitively like a psych rock track is 'I Warned You' that finds itself spiraling with keyboards and harmonicas by its end. The album is otherwise a bluesier record, which in theory wouldn't be a problem.
Sadly, the problem in lies in the fact that the album pretty much sounds the same throughout its entirety. It's not until the final two tracks you can finally say "That's new." The album's opus 'Lonesome Bulldog' provides a hopeful outlook on the rest of the album, the Nirvana-esque approach to the guitar that ultimately builds to a powerful guitar solo to carry the track to its end. Everything this album wants to say is taken care of within the first songs. The opening number 'Only You' sets the dark tone of the record, and 'Lonesome Bulldog' sets the sonic scene the rest of the album wishes it could replicate.
For what it's worth, the lyrics on this album do shine at points. The main lyrical success is 'Drinking Song', a song that begins off by singing off the joys of drinking with drunkenly sung lines such as "All alcohol, he never pretends / Bet you're gonna meet a million best friends," before it relapses on itself and speaks of the horrors of it: "So many times I wanna give you up / Especially when I'm so fucked up / So many lives you've taken without regret / Won't be the first time or last to give you up." The song's bridge consists of a guitar solo that sounds as equally defeated as the vocals do, before the song somberly ends with vocalist Bobby Hecksher whimpering away as alcoholism takes him away.
The longest song on the record, 'Dance Alone' also has something interesting going on it, and that lies in the song's reminiscent composure. It clocks in at six minutes, half the length of the band's older jam songs that sound much the same. The song has multiple different pieces to it that reprise themselves throughout, including the bubbly guitar parts in the verses and reverberating guitar chords that build the choruses. It feels like a nice little moment of appreciation for their past. While it's not really a special track in the album, it does have that interesting quality going for it.
Songs From The Pale Eclipse is a chill album, but there's little incentive to listen to it after the first two or three songs. Everything pretty much sounds monotonous. You start at the beginning and tune out until the end, where 'I Warned You' brings real psychedelic rock to the table and 'The Arp Made Me Cry' takes the album out on a somber note. You can tell The Warlocks tried here, but they really didn't find much ground. The same general idea is used throughout most every song and for that, this album ends up feeling dull. The band's definitely capable of bigger and better things; let's hope this isn't the start of a downfall.
Favorite Tracks: Lonesome Bulldog, Drinking Song
Least Favorite Tracks: We Took All The Acid, Easy To Forget, Special Today
Rating: 64 / 100