If you like your rock dark and mysterious, heavy and distorted, twisted yet beautifully melodic then Swedish newcomers The Heard will be just the ticket.
The Stockholm band formed of three former Crucified Barbara members – Ida (bass), Klara (guitar) and Nicki (drums) – who, when the previous band split, knew they wanted to continue making music together, but with a second guitar and “a front person that loves to be on stage.” After adding Skinny as lead guitarist, after Klara met him at a Stockholm music fare, they certainly found the latter in the form of frontwoman Pepper Potemkin. As Ida explains: “We also knew (her) a little bit before. Mainly through her burlesque acts but we also knew she was a great singer and after one night in the rehearsal place the band was all set. It was almost too easy!”
The band’s debut album The Island is a concept album about, well, an island. As Ida explains: “The story is set on an island outside of Stockholm. Based on rumours and our own experiences we started to work on the lyrics. Everything pointed in one direction, to the island. We dug deeper into different stories that go around amongst the islanders, and then we mixed it up with things that intrigue and inspire us. That field is pretty wide and stretches from ancient religion to Swedish mysticism. We tell the story about how the island came to live and about the beautiful, but deceiving woods and people living and dying on the island.”
“I cannot put into words how excited I am, (we) have waited for this for so long. It’s been a very fun and emotional journey to write this album and we are so happy to finally be able to present it to all of you.”
Our first taste of The Heard was the album’s superb second track Death Supreme, which opens with light guitars that continue under Pepper’s seductive vocals. It begins to build up with the line “Consumed by the sea, All my secrets buried with me” then explodes into life in a powerful chorus of huge singalong lyrics “Leave me to death supreme, Leave me drowning in the sea” over big booming guitars. A second round of even more impressive chorus vocals sees things intensify with big guitar chords under Pepper’s huge vocals then feeding into a meandering guitar solo, which drops into a spooky melodic section then a huge drum roll leads into a final blast of vocals. It’s a huge track, and you can give it a listen below:
That’s followed by the equally brilliant Tower of Silence, which opens up with a delicious rolling riff and driving drums that drop into Pepper’s big opening vocals. They intensify in gothicness alongside drawn-out guitar sounds before the riff briefly returns, then the vocals “They put her high in the tower of silence, She rots in the sky not to soil the ground” give way to huge cries of the same lyrics. Check it out in the video below:
Then Sirens brings across the more sinister side of The Heard, opening up with an eerie combination of Pepper’s spooky vocals, light guitars and distant synths. A second verse “Last summer was filled with ponies and toys, One year passed and I’m still not into boys, Something else has caught my eye, The strength of a woman with a bad rumour since day one” feeds into high-pitched cries of “Sirens” over heavier guitars. A cool little guitar solo then another verse opens up “She steals young girls at night, She uses them as collectors of souls” then gives way to powerful cries of “The Night Comers have chosen me” before dropping into a longer guitar solo. Check it out in the lyric video below:
And the powerful dark rock keeps on coming with the powerful It, then Revenge Song is driven forward by booming guitar chords under more huge vocals from Pepper, which are an equally dominant feature of the brooding Queen Scarlett.
The album goes out in style with Leaving The Island (having opened with a track called The Island), which begins with a couple of meandering guitar licks. Heavier, dark guitars kick in under Pepper’s vocals that build into more powerful cries then laid-back vocals “Leaving the island, Never coming back” over more light guitars. Second time around those vocals gradually increase in intensity, ending on a huge cry of “Never coming back” that’s the cue for a big smash of guitars and more powerful vocals then a cool guitar solo that drops into a final hit of dark vocals “Darkness rolling in, Winter’s coming, I’m leaving you now.”
Further expanding on the influences behind their music, Ida tells us: “We write about people and environment on this album. That seed was born when me and Skinny started talking about ‘The Island’ where we have spent a lot of time during our childhood. We are really inspired by some Swedish writers, like John Ajvide Lindqvist and Marie Hermansson. The way they make the supernatural seem totally rational and close and very, very exciting at the same time. We have tried to express that with notes, and melodies musically. To actually feel the ‘darkness rolling in’ in the music when Pepper sings that line in Leaving The Island and to make the listener become swept away by both the lyrics and the music to get the most out of the musical experience. Specific books, music, Swedish myths, religion are some of the different paths that we have explored in order to create The Island.
“It is not one band or one genre that has inspired us. We listen to so much all the time. One artist that we all like is John Coltrane. With The Heard we are free, not tied to any ‘must dos’ or boring obligations to write three-minute-hits. So anything can happen and nothing is off the table musically. A little bit like Jazz and John Coltrane.”
We’ve discovered plenty of new bands out of Sweden recently, but The Heard are certainly one of our favourites. Their gothic darkness contrasted by big powerful rockiness and Peppers staggeringly good vocals will have you hooked.
There’s plenty more to come from The Heard, including a gig at Debaser in Stockholm on 29 December, but mostly Ida wasn’t yet able to reveal their full plans, only adding: “Come and see us live! That’s when we can show you our entire world and everything in it!”