In recent years, Sweden has become more known for its extreme, dark and black metal acts. Sideburn set to redress the balance with their own brand of hard rock, which verges ever so slightly into stoner territory. Songs are quite lengthy and many segments are slow and heavy, but there are plenty of speedier intermissions to mix things up.
Evil or Divine came out in the middle of last year through Metalville and it’s a great collection of head-nodders in the classic rock mould. Opener “Masters and Slaves” kicks in with a fairly pacey drumdreat but rapidly changes into churning, grinding lump of heaviness. This song really chugs, and its simple main riff runs throughout. Distorted vocals give it a slightly trippy feel in places, whereas in others they’re more plaintive.
“Sea of Sins” is one of the two shorter tracks on the album along with “Evil Ways” (both clock in at just under five minutes apiece). Again, it’s got that kind of railroad rhythm to it, but is a little brighter than “Masters…”. Some nice scaled flurries inject a little life into proceedings and Dimitri Keiski’s vocals kick up a notch with a twinge of anger in places. The band’s prog influences pop out once or twice with some noodly paired solos, as well. Surprisingly, given the comparatively short running time, “Sea of Sins” probably packs in more variety than any other song on the album.
We’re into doom territory from the off with “When Darkness Calls”, bass led and slow. This slow number picks up a little around two-thirds of the way through, but otherwise is quite the atmospheric number. The pounding kicks back in again for the wonderfully bouncy (if that’s the right word, but hey) “The Seer” which has a cracking opening section. This is jump-up-and-down-punching-the-air stuff. It’s also seven minutes long, but doesn’t feel it.
The longest track, “The Day The Sun Died” is a shade over eight minutes long and one of the most depressing things you’ll hear. Which makes sense, given the title. This really harks back to the early days of Sabbath. As far as doom goes, this is about as good as it gets.
“Evil Ways” is more of a traditional hard rock number, and lifts things after the depression that will have hit you during the previous song. It’s almost rousing, for crying out loud. The seven-and-a-half minute closer that is “Presence” has a nice ethnic feel to it, with some simple percussion and acoustic guitars. This is without a doubt the most “different” track on Evil or Divine and possibly the best for it. It’s not a pacey track, but it’s certainly uplifting and makes superb use of backing vocals and layered sound.
Sideburn are, like so many acts we cover these days, someone I’d not heard of before. And, as ever, they exemplify the fact that there is so much great music out there going undiscovered. Keep digging and you’ll certainly keep turning up nuggets like Evil of Divine.