December 4, 2022

I have to say from the outset I’m so, so mightily pleased to have come across these guys – this could well be my album of the year! Since the release of their debut self-titled album from 2019, the group has recruited a second guitarist, enabling more dynamic twin guitar arrangements and colourful melodies to enrich their work. The first fruits of this new mix were evident in the double-A single released in August, and now we have Peace And Conflict, the second full-length album out now on The Sign Records.

Classic rock meets heavy metal, these guys are massively influenced by the great bands of the 1970s and 80s, with a big touch of Pat Benatar, Heart, Blues Pills and a smidge of Blondie! They like their rock’n’roll to boogie, a powerful vocal performance and a tightly pounding rhythm section only adding to what is a full-on NWOBHM-powered hard rock sound. 

Oddly, the original quartet of Swedes first met and formed in London, before later relocating to Sweden whilst diverting to Madrid to record their first album – at Holy Cuervo Studios. The album’s success was built around a straight-forward appetite for classic rock with a touch of prog and psychedelia – possibly all those British influences coming out to play! It received great reviews and in the autumn of 2019, the band toured all over Europe in three separate headline tours around France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden. Today, the band consists of singer Totta Ekebergh, guitarists Arnau Diaz and Joakim Sandegård, bass player Max Ternebring and drummer Jussi Kalla

The Riven!

Three years on, with more and more gigs, tours and festival appearances under their belts, Peace and Conflict reflects that evolution, still firmly rooted in NWOBHM but with a fuller for mature sound. The band went to a cottage in the south of Sweden in the summer of 2021 to create this little beauty, the newly released album balancing perfectly straight, sharpshooting heavy rock with big choruses with psychedelic moments. It offers twin guitars, roaring vocals and a locked-in rhythm section waiting to whisk you away with some monster tracks! The band themselves describe the album as “full of catchy rock tunes and psychedelic vibes. It’s only half as long as a Stranger Things episode, so make sure you give it a spin and find out who dies at the end!”

Lyrically tackling subjects such as life, death, freedom, love, and hate while moving between fast paced heavy metal numbers to laid back acoustic cuts, Peace and Conflict” offers a varied and vibrant rock experience. Comparisons have been made with Blues Pills, but for my money these guys are on another level of all-round great rock!

With that introduction in mind, we kick off with On Time, an energetic, speedy number akin to Pat Benatar at her most raucous, Totta announcing herself as a rock’n’roll belter of the highest order! The track itself bounds along, relentlessly displaying wonderful guitarwork, a whopping, pounding rhythm that never lets go except for Totta to have another howl. But the whole thing is just great high-speed melodic rock fun! The Taker is next, a similarly speedy slab of classic, full-on, woman-fronted rock band belting it out. I can’t keep still, so far, so very good!

The title track follows, and this really highlights the versatility of this quintet. Synths and a rumbling bassline introduce a comparatively slow, almost bluesy number with some unusual, sweetly multi-layered vocals and swooping guitars, it’s a cleverly composed track creating a real sense of atmosphere. A brief bridge section paves the way for some great twin-lead work, the two guitarists impressively yo-yoing their talents before the whole thing winds up to a crescendo, this singer is special!

And then we have the delicacy of La Puerta del Tiempo, a gentle piece of tinkling acoustic Spanish guitar work. It serves as the lull before the storm, introducing Sorceress of the Sky. This is an absolute monster of a track! A simple but effective guitar line sets the scene, morphing into a huge, chuggingly anthemic number in which Totta comes across as a magician summoning the four elements of the earth through her voice. She reminds me of Lee-La Baum from the Canadian band The Damn Truth (similar purveyors of great quality ‘new’ classic rock), an equally strong, melodious yet totally controlled singer. I defy folk to name a fuller, more powerful yet sweetly pitched vocalist! The track then concludes as it started, the volume fading with a touch of acoustic guitar to gently bring things to a conclusion. And breathe….

On Top of Evil is another absolute beast of a track, again building slowly with an gorgeously insidious low guitar-line and bass before exploding into such a powerful express-train of a riff. If possible, Totta’s vocals are even more earth-shattering on this, a simply immense level of power, emotion, sustained note-holding par excellence – seriously reminding me of Paul Rodgers singing the Bad Company title track, crossed with Debbie Harry – she’s that powerful! The whole thing drives massively and insanely towards the end, what a great, great, group performance – Phew!

After all that excitement, I’m wondering how the band can possibly keep up this level of pure excitement. Fly Free perhaps suffers from following in the footsteps of two such huge tracks that it seems a little diminished in comparison, but it’s still a perfectly decent, Benatar-esque track. Layers of guitars mesmerise and the band sound as tight as ever. Sundown follows, and fits the bill perfectly – changing the mood with a sparse acoustic ballad. Totta’s voice swoops and soars, a masterwork of vocal control – simply beautiful.

Death is the final and longest track on the album, I suspect it’s gonna be a cracking end to an epic album and I’m not disappointed! Restrained guitars underpin The Voice, a wonderfully rumbling bassline again pervades the ether. Its another track displaying the band’s tasteful style of composition and arrangement, an elegant guitar and bass-led bridge section builds to the anticipated whopper of a guitar crescendo, and Totta soars above the lot! – a truly epic finale!

The album was recorded at La Cavana Studios by Arnau Díaz. The album was mixed and mastered by Ola Ersfjord. Artwork by Maarten Donders. Peace and Conflict is now available through The Sign Records on all streaming platforms, vinyl, and CD. 

This is one of those albums that holds you transfixed from start to finish, through not just the strength of the individuals but also the sheer variety and power, light and shade in their compositions. I absolutely love this, it’s an absolute belter and a definite contender for my Album Of The Year!

An epic end to an epic album!