August 25, 2023

So… the PR Blurb introduces this album as “an infectious blend of Sabbath-meets-Kiss or Clutch jamming with Foo Fighters or Monster Magnet crashing a Led-Zeppelin show”….and actually, that’s a pretty damn good summary of this lot! Masheena is a Norwegian band made up of members of Abbath, Immortal and Lost At Last (all Bergen based) getting together in a studio with Enslaved’s very own drummer/producer Iver Sandøy overseeing the recordings. You might expect this to be a pretty doom-laden metal-fest given their previous work but no! Instead they’ve created an album that aims to honour the rich heritage of hard rock music by creating great songs that people can connect with – and I do believe they’ve succeeded!

In 2021, Luis-Alberto Salomon started sharing demos with his longtime friend Tarjei A. Heggernes. Before Masheena, Luis had been a vocal and instrumental cornerstone in Royal Rooster, while Tarjei played bass and drove the rhythm for Lost at Last. Seeing the potential in the demos, Tarjei jumped on board, and also roped in Gerhard Herfindal, better known as Armagedda; A legendary drummer, who has played with formidable acts such as Immortal, I, and Demonaz. The ensemble was completed with the inclusion of Luis’s friend, multi-instrumentalist Ole Andre Farstad aka “El Mago”, current lead guitarist for Abbath.

A happy crew!

The new band created four initial tracks that formed an EP that piqued the interest of the revered label Majestic Mountain Records. Impressed with the sound, the label urged the band to develop a full-length album. The recording sessions took place at Solslottet Studio in the band’s hometown of Bergen, Norway, with the assistance of another long-time friend, the award-winning producer and Enslaved drummer, Iver Sandøy. For the crucial process of mixing and mastering, they turned to the industry titan known as Machine. As a Clutch fan, Tarjei relished the opportunity to collaborate with the wizard who had shaped the sound of legendary albums like Blast Tyrant and Earth Rocker.

Their debut single 1979, released in tandem with their premiere live shows at the Majestic Mountain Records Festival Oslo in December 2022, exceeded all expectations. It secured impressive placements on Spotify playlists, nominations for the Best Norwegian Rock Song of the Year, and substantial airplay on NRK, Norway’s national radio. NRK DJ Totto Mjelde even declared, “When you have a song as good as this, you don’t need more than one song!” 

This momentum ultimately led the band to be selected as one of the ten contenders, from a list of 250 bands, to perform at Norway’s largest rock festival, Tons of Rock, by public voting. Award winning producer Iver Sandøy has this to say about the band: “I think the guys walked out of the first session for what was intended as an EP in mild shock. Helping people exceed their own expectations is the ultimate producer’s goal, so in my book this is already a great success!

We have eight varied tracks here, opener 1979 is the one that started it all, a juicy, bouncy Sabbath-meets Kiss number that rolls unstoppably along. It has a superb, hypnotically repetitive riff, a wonderful guitar solo in the middle section, choral harmonies, the whole is a deliciously feel-good intro to the gang! Second single Under the Same Sun is slower, darker, grunge-like, more than a touch of Soundgarden here. I like it!

Looks Like a Man is softer, a semi-acoustic ballad, melodic and surprisingly dreamy in its arrangement, quite hippy-ish with a very 70’s San Francisco vibe! Gets meatier towards the end with a great “Slither”- style riff redolent of Velvet Revolver! Brings Me Down has a Southern groove, albeit with a toned-down stoner riff, this swaggers along like an early David Coverdale. It’s a simple song but hits the spot, and another stellar solo gets my seal of approval! Vocals are perfect.

Five Seconds of Fame is constructed around another addictive powerhouse stoner riff. Shades of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, plus Dave Grohl giving it his best, and again some tasty twin licks as it builds towards a crescendo. Sun Remains breezes in next, it’s a lovely ballad that echoes early Zeppelin. Again quite hippy-ish, it actually reminds me a lot of that criminally under-rated 70’s UK band Help Yourself. A contender for “The Strongest Track”, love it!

Remember the Rain is back into a grunge vibe, very 90’s, another nod to Chris Cornell in his Soundgarden days and a great production. And then we have the closing track Where Are You Now, a dark and devastatingly heavy beast of a riff, it’s a cunning blend of Sabbath and more contemporary Metal with just a twist of eastern influences that leaves you craving for more – so it’s back to the beginning again for me!.

In short, this album is a blend of both the sunny and shady grooves of the 70’s, the shameless hedonism of 80’s hard rock and heavy metal, as well as the jagged riffs and darker vibes of the 90’s alternative rock and metal scenes – it’s an infectiously satisfying, immensely varied and versatile collection of hard rock tunes, I’m hugely impressed and an immediate fan!

Out now digitally, with the vinyl release by Majestic Mountain Records, and CD and cassette by Electric Talon Records,  West Coast Hard Rock will push all the right buttons for so many folk – Clutch, Foo Fighters, QOTSA, Monster Magnet, and many, many more.