Blues Pills

Devil Man EP

Written by: AP on 06/10/2013 12:42:07

In the mid-90's and early 00's, Sweden was widely regarded as the cradle of melodic death metal, with virtually every noteworthy representative of the genre claiming Gothenburg as their hometown. Since then, new fads have arrived of course, and the country has struggled to find a foothold in most of them - with the exception of one: the heritage rock movement, recalling the 70's golden age of classic rock music. It is not up to argument that here, too, Sweden has established itself as a veritable mecca for bands practicing this style, with a seemingly endless torrent of retrospective bands spilling into the scene every year; each with their own unique miasma of influences.

Blues Pills, born two years ago in Örebro, are recent debutants to the genre, yet their signature with Nuclear Blast Records this summer is nothing, if not a stamp of approval; not to mention a clue that their debut EP "Devil Man" might just be something extraordinary. Indeed, it takes little more than vocalist Elin Larsson's tense and dominant croon of "Ooooh, devil man! / you've got money in your pocket / you've got blackness in your soul / Ooooh, devil man!" at the beginning of the title track to confirm my suspicions. Contrary to many of their peers, there isn't much of a trace of doom or stoner rock in Blues Pills' palette of inspiration; instead, the music is best described as what Aretha Franklin (the 60's gospel-turned-soul and R'n'B artist) or - for a more contemporary reference - Adele, would sound like if they were backed by a 70's rock band. Her singing is absolutely stunning, and though the instrumental foundation (courtesy of guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry) is itself soulful, and executed with skill and finesse, Larsson could carry the weight of this disc alone and it would still be a masterclass.

The EP is divided into two classes: the upbeat and groove based rock'n'roll tracks "Devil Man" and "Time is Now", which remind me of Vidunder's stomping "Into Her Grave" and Year Long Disaster's "Cold Killer", respectively; and the moody ballads "The River" and "Dig In", the first of which is what Agnes Obel's "Riverside" would sound like if sung by Adele, and the latter of which bears an eerie resemblance to Graveyard's "Slow Motion Countdown". As such, the EP is a perfect exposition of Blues Pills from all of their aspects, and there is no line to draw between better and worse among them; they enforce diversity, and ensure the band can demonstrate the full extent of their collective prowess across a measly four songs. I say collective, because despite the fact that Larsson is the objective centerpiece of Blues Pills, there is no telling how shallow and deprived the soundscape would be without the aid of her colleagues, whose organic approach to their instruments contributes a veritable treasure chest of both subtle and overt nuances. There is never a moment when Sorriaux, Anderson or Berry see themselves content with a simple, repetitive riff or rhythm; they swerve, twist and evolve from melancholic quietuses to soul-wrenching solos and cathartic crescendos without relent, and as a result, this otherwordly mixture of two disparate worlds - heritage rock and R'n'B/soul - sounds like the most natural idea ever.

Blues Pills are not the first band to employ a female vocalist in this genre (Mud Walk, Royal Thunder and Spiders all come to mind), nor are they the first to impress by virtue of just how able that vocalist is. But with "Devil Man", Blues Pills launch the setup into another dimension and establish themselves, with strength and immediacy, as one of the most exciting bands to have emerged from the Swedish heritage rock deluge. Certainly, "Devil Man" will have no trouble finding itself in high standing on my personal favorites of 2013 list once that gets published at the end of the year.


Download: Devil Man, The River, Time is Now, Dig in
For the fans of: Adele, Kadavar, Mud Walk, Royal Thunder, Spiders
Listen: Facebook

Release date 18.10.2013
Nuclear Blast Records

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