March 24, 2023

90’s Alternative Rock was never anything else then great pop-songs filtered through screaming guitars. The Swedish based power trio Statues can be filed under your typical Scandi-rock band, centred on simple, impulsive, eccentric, and just fun, high energy rock! They could be that third band that played somewhere in the Mid-West US together with Hüsker Dü and Sonic Youth during the late ’80s. Generally speaking, this genre is right up there for catchiness – whether Statues hit the mark or stand still remains to be seen…  

Statues are based in Umeå, Sweden, and display a dense stubbornness as their musical trademark. At the same time, there is an unobtrusive security and a sense of dynamics in the group’s ‘tasteful’ association of tantrum noises and winding melodies. Much of their work is unmistakably bottled in an indie-rock and post-punk North American-style tradition, hugely influenced by a young and hungry Hüsker Dü as well as legendary US Alternative record labels like SST and Dischord – so you either love it, or think “time’s up”….. 

Statues are:
Johan Sellman – Vocals, Guitar
Magnus Egerbladh Öberg – Drums
Henrik Wiklund – Bass, vocals

The trio has been playing together in different constellations since 1991. The ‘red thread’ throughout the years is that everything has become more and more intense and angry for each year. Over time, the band members have been part of bands such as Starmarket, KVLR, and The Vultures, then in 2018 everything changed and Statues was born. That same year, their debut album Adult Lobotomy was released through German label Crazysane Records. The furious and straightforward expression of the high-intensity debut meant it sold out in no time. 

“In music its a rare balance to successfully blend politics and fun, aggression with melody. Drawing on some of my fave post-punk influences and classic rock grooves, Statues debut Adult Lobotomy walks a line like Phillippe Petit across the sky between Twin Towers, gracefully subversive.”Walter Schreifels (Quicksand, Rival Schools, Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits)

In 2020 Statues released their second album Holocene on Lövely Records. The band wrote over 40 songs, all short, fast, intense; culling these down to the final 11 which were recorded in just three hours. It was the first time in the history of the recording studio where the studio reimbursed a band for un-used pre-booked studio time!

Which brings us up to date with Black Arcs Rising. Recorded in Gothenburg using the same “write lots, hack it down then eat, sleep and shower while recording the selected tracks”, this 12 track full-length release was recorded over five days solid studio time and brings back the imperishable soundscapes of 90’s alternative rock while showcasing Statues’ melodic, direct, and intense approach to songwriting – everything that was played ended up on tape, including the bands’ energy and stubbornness! I say “brings us up to date” – weirdly, the lyrics and artwork for Black Arcs Rising were drawn up before the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, although the lyrics still give hints of threatful viruses, sinkholes, and total environmental collapse. Perhaps we should borrow the crystal ball from Statues, or just accept that the band just might be part of the future…

Black Arcs Rising is produced and mixed by Christian Ramirez who also adds additional guitar on the tracks Perfect Storm, Sardonic Grin, and Eyes in the Sky, and mastered by Magnus Lindberg. The album features guest vocals by Per Stålberg on Phantasm, Dead of Summer, and Hiding in a Hole, and art direction by Joel Dunkels. As with Statues’ 2020 album Holocene, Black Arcs Rising is released by Swedish independent label Lövely Records. 

Statues tell us: “The title warns of worse times. Black Arcs can be seen in a chart, but it can also mean that there are black arcs rising from the ground that warn of worse times. Our texts are often prophetic by accident. The last record, Holocene, had a song called Lockdown and then came the pandemic. The lyrics are as usual of the darker kind, but there is also a kind of black humor in the absurdity described. If you do it wrong, things will go to hell and therefore it must be warned about the madness that exists. It may already be too late to save the world as the doomsday clock is close to midnight, but by pointing to the absurdities of environmental destruction, consumerism, capitalism, the annexation of other countries and an unwillingness to change behaviour, we are doing what we can to encourage change”.

Phil Jupitus on the right???

Okay – what you see is what you get! only two of these tracks break the four-minute barrier, and the rest are less than or barely scrape the three minute mark. They’re all basically the same formula as I’m sure you’ll have guessed by now. Opener Underground has a nicely fuzzed riff, and a trademark “basically live in one take” mix. Next is Chemicals, same rough-edged but tuneful mix. Sardonic Grin has a nicely sardonic set of lyrics to go with the title – I do love this one! 

Agony is a cover of a song by Yung Lean. Statues have turned it into a 90s song and released it as the first single from the album. The soft melodies of the piano in the original have been converted into guitar chords and given the usual high tempo treatment! Then we get Phantasm, which sadly takes muddy fuzz to a whole new (poor) level – I’m afraid I cant get interested in mixes like this, I can dance to a two-year-old banging a saucepan but this is a strugggle! Eyes in the Sky is at 4:10 minutes the “epic saga” of the song-set, and I prefer this less manic approach, it makes the guitar work more enjoyable and the message clearer.

At 1:54 minutes, Hiding in a Hole is the shortest track here, it’s like listening to early Wire…Meteorology is better, its a proper tune! The last four all plough the same furrow, although the final track Bestiary is slower and clearer again, so one gets to appreciate it a little more! Doing stuff in one take is all well and good , but shouldn’t be an excuse for lazy derivative song-writing and sloppy recording….sorry folks, but this feels like an exercise to meet a recording contract rather than genuinely creating anything new….one, two or three tracks together is okay, but 12 of the same just doesn’t cut it for me.

“Black Arcs Rising” is released on May the 5th, 2023. The album will be available on all streaming platforms and in two colour variants on vinyl – transparent green vinyl with red splatter, and solid white vinyl. 

The first single off the new album, “Agony”