Last Days On Earth is the third studio album by Swedish Rock band Svartanatt, and follows their 2016 self-titled debut as well as their 2018 sophomore full-length Starry Eagle Eyes. Recorded in Svenska Grammofonstudion, Last Days On Earth offers 11 new cuts of hard hitting retro rock that will appeal very nicely to fans of Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Saxon, Hawkwind, Rival Sons, Lynyrd Skynyrd etc. While continuing building on Svartanatt’s solid foundation of ’60s and ’70s influenced rock, the album showcases even more varied and captivating soundscapes than before, where melodic organ and guitar arrangements interplay with a tight, rock solid rhythm section, all topped with songwriter Jani’s unique, expressive vocals.
The band were formed in 2014 by Jani Lehtinen, who had known Daniel and Mattias through living in the same city (Gävle) before they moved to Stockholm. Mattias recruited Felix and later on Jani asked Martin Borgh (Organ, keyboards) to join the band, which felt natural since they already had been playing in several bands together. A successful quintet was hereby formed and hits like Demon, Black Heart amongst others saw the light of day.
After a few years of local shows and successful wild tours across Europe (including broken limbs and lost band members) Mattias decided to leave the band in 2019. Jani hooked up with old friend Anton Fors (bass) for a chat and some beers. From then on they’ve kept rocking together. With melodious guitars, heavy organ, high energy drums, groovy basslines and unique sharp vocals, Svartanatt creates their own timeless rock sound that has been recognized around the world. Last Days On Earth will be released by The Sign Records on 3rd November 2023.
The band have this to say about their new release: “It’s a lot of doom and gloom on this album, at least in the lyrics. Faith in humanity, society and the own existence is nothing but a memory. Buried beneath a monument saying “your days are numbered, welcome to hell”. But one man’s loss is another one’s gain. What will rise from the ashes? There has been no shortage of creativity and fun when recording this album. There’s a lot of classic Svartanatt but also an expansion of the sound. On the albums last track, Where I Belong, Lars Heaster (Daniels dad) has put down an epic trumpet that rides the album into the sunset. Magical, if we may say so.”
On first listen to this, straight away it’s another slice of classic Scandi retro rock – lovely stuff! Building on a solid foundation of ’60s and ’70s influences, this record delivers a nice mix of captivating and diverse soundscapes. There’s heavy organ work and melodic guitar arrangements that perfectly complement high energy drums and groovy bass-lines. And Jani’s expressive vocals easily bring the songs to life. The opening track Demons In The Night accurately captures this lot in their pomp, it reminds me of mid-period Sassafras – and lots of Man tracks. Okay, to some it might appear slightly dated but to me this sort of rock is simply timeless – and tasty!
Mad Stranger is next up, a frenetic romp through the studio, punctuating by machine-gun drumming. Its okay, if a little too derivative? The Crows is better, a lovely flowing lead line on top of a chugging rhythm. Seriously, the guitar work here is top-notch. Child Of The Devil unleashes another lovely riff plus lead line, very melodic on top of a break-neck pace that morphs into a second rhythm, then another. You do get the feeling these guys are so wedded to this style of rock that, like Noel Gallagher, they can play it in their sleep. Good fun this one though!
Keep On Movin’ is more Southern rock, a real touch of the Skynyrds about it – and nicely done as well. The riff from the next one, Children of the Sun, sounds just a tad like The House of The Rising Sun to start with, but it does have a fuller more psych-rock feel than that hoary old beastie! This is a sort of ballad, softer in tone, multiple layers washing over the listener – and a great solo in the middle. It’s just great retro-rock, replete with echoing fade-out!
I’m Ready bounces along with a Purple-esque Hammond organ sound – that classic mix of guitar and Hammond always gets me – and having just seen Glenn Hughes’ band in action, there’s a few parallels. In contrast, Time On Your Side as a sort of dark jangly Shadows feel about it, amidst a definitely psychedelic vibe! But a lovely throbbing bassline and some very tasty lead licks, again showing big melodies as well. Texas Dance is just plain weird – stabbing Doors-like keys, again a very 60’s sound, it does work though despite all the little tinkly bits and what sounds like xylophone at one point, all thrown in and rounded off by some classic southern riffs – these guys have no shame in their mixing bowl!
What You Want is quite a long track by their standards at 5:13, its what I’ve come to classify as “pacey Scandi boogie”, always a quite retro sound but effervescently played, great fun had by all, I do like these guys! I suspect a lot of these bands have been influenced by those loons in Marvel, a kind of collective sense of light-heartedness, steeped in the annals of power-pop / pub-rock, the end result invariably being entertaining – this track is particularly OTT but great! Which brings us, sadly, to the last track – imagine a blend of classic blues-rock somehow imbued with a wedge of speedy boogie and more than a hint of Spaghetti Western. You’re getting there! And it winds itself up into a suitably cinematic widescreen climax – another thrilling five-minute retro masterpiece – complete with trumpet!
You’ll have gathered by now that I really enjoyed the general retro over-the-top-ness of this record, I get the feeling the guys have a complete ball writing and recording new material and heaven only knows what spectacular events their live shows could be like! There’s lots of fluid guitar lines, a taut rhythm section, a nice groundswell of organ, great hooks and chorus lines, and a nice sense of Marshall amps being thrashed within an inch of distortion – what’s not to like (except the cheapo photos! – and I’m sure I’ve seen the image on the album cover before – echoes of Pure Prairie League, anyone?!)
“Last Days On Earth” was recorded by Martin Borgh, who also mixed the album. Mastered by Hans Olsson Brookes (Bombus, Spiders, Graveyard, Blues Pills). “Last Days On Earth” will be released on the 3rd of November, 2023 by The Sign Records. The album will be available on all streaming platforms and on black as well as orange vinyl.