Man, is it ever refreshing to hear something like this! Åskväder are a truly compelling brand of catchy rock music, dense with hooks and melody. Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, the band name translates to “thunderstorm,” and the self-titled debut record certainly holds lots of stormy energy in an uplifting sort of way. This will make itself very apparent right out of the gate, as there’s a no-bullshit and to-the-point aesthetic.
With this, you can be certain that the vocals hold great amounts of depth from all of the harmony. Picture if Geddy Lee were less intense and more laid back with his delivery regarding the lead vocals. There’s a split backing between traditional rock ‘n roll roots brought to modern production values, and tinges of blues, surf, and psychedelic. “Defeat” is very much in the former realm, as the loose structure complements the smooth rhythm patterns like the massive wave of ‘70s hard rock.
On the other hand, “God’s Grace” casts modern alternative rock vibes to modernize it. There’s more speed, the vocals hit right away, and the lead guitars follow them flawlessly. A higher dash of crunch is added in the bridge to break things up, dropping into an explosive second verse. “Give In” injects bluesier takes, rewinding to the late ‘60s era and adding those aforementioned samples of psychedelic inspiration. What compliments that so well is the beachier vibes in “Cutting Corners.” Sweeping licks teamed with elaborate basslines keep it warm, and the catchy chorus is very much an earworm.
If it isn’t obvious by now, Åskväder mostly avoids anything dark or heavy. The closest it gets to that are things that remind me of Budgie. “Devil’s Feast” brings it to fruition, but stripping away the heavy metal aesthetic. There’s also some rather advanced construction in “Bit My Lip.” Tighter verses transcend into a faster chorus, topped off by a shredding solo. Amazingly, the tones still remain warm and light, which adds plenty of vibrancy to it.
I can say with confidence that despite how early into 2020 we are, Åskväder have crafted a potential top-five of the year record in their self-titled effort. Do not look to this for traditional metal or anything aimed to be heavy or dark. Instead, seek some comforting feelings and stellar songwriting that combines many aspects of rock ‘n roll. Fans of Flight, Woodhawk, or perhaps Ghost should give this their attention.
Åskväder came out on March 13th, 2020, through The Sign Records. Find yourself a CD or vinyl copy and hear it digitally right here!