Norway and hardcore music are becoming almost synonymous with one another, and the latest exciting new band to join the revolution is Oslo’s Naga Siren. The hardcore punk / screamo quartet of Emil Solbakken, Jompi Myren, Tarjei Kristoffersen and Oliver David Kimmell may well be the most exciting thing to emerge from Norway since, well erm, ski-jumping?
The band have just released their first full-length record, in the form of the brilliant eight-track Swallows Tornadoes. We caught up with frontman Emil ahead of its launch and he told us: “YES! Finally get to put out a full-length. Even though all four of us have been actively playing for about 10 years, three of us have never managed to put out something else besides EPs. We’re really excited to share the complete thing after testing the waters with our three singles. We’re mostly curious about if people prefer the harder or softer tracks, as the record contains both.
“People who are familiar with the Nagas should expect a broader sound, less pointy and sharp. We’re still playing the same kind of music but with more emphasis on catchy hooks and a ‘modern sound.'”
As Emil alludes to, the Naga Siren sound is constantly evolving. As he explains: “Naga was meant as a side-project where we could pour out ideas and riffs that didn’t fit any of our current bands. When we started, the focus was on our roots – early 2000 Scandinavian hardcore. Play hard and scream your heart out. The project grew into a serious band, and on this record I wanted to blend the rawness of Scandi-hardcore with something more catchy, drawing my inspiration from bands like Underoath and Alexisonfire.”
And that rawness meets catchiness certainly comes across in Swallows Tornadoes, with brutal, fast-paced punk contrasted by engaging, singalong melodic moments.
It begins with fast-paced looping guitars in the intro to opening track Keep Breathing, then a big hit of guitar chords leads into a fun, darting Counterfeit-esque guitar riff and pounding drums. Emil’s screamed vocals come in over driving guitars and drums, then a big cry of “Keep breathing, keep breathing, I need something that I can believe in, I just need some reassurance” as the big vocals continue, then the riff comes back to link into another verse. A repeat of those vocals drops into more laid-back, clean vocals as the pace drops down before building up to one final blast of guitars. Check it out in the stream below:
The title track Swallows Tornadoes follows, which sets the scene for the whole album as Emil tells us: “The whole concept of the album, me having anxiety on my shoulders, constantly trying to break me.” It opens up with booming guitars and big screamed vocals that lead into a catchy singalong chorus. There’s a heavy breakdown of stabby guitars over screamed vocals, which drops into a laid-back chillout section that’s smashed apart by huge guitar chords and screams as the track goes out fighting.
The pace is kept up with the livewire Clay, which opens up with fast-paced guitar chords that feed into a verse of brutal vocals over darting guitars and relentless drums that continue throughout this short, fast romp.
Next is most recent single The Waves, which opens up with more relaxed vocals – and when we say relaxed, we mean not brutal screaming – of “It takes time to fade away, but al I want is to be forgotten,” that drops into more screamed vocals over looping guitar riffs. Those lyrics return in a heavier chorus that ends on cries of “I’ll go anywhere” then a cheeky little bass solo feeds into a second verse that ends on big screams.
One of my highlights of the album is the excellent Cunning Eyes, which opens up with an awesome guitar intro that feeds into a wild screamed opening verse that intensifies into a chorus that encourages you to scream along regardless of whether you can decipher the lyrics. That continues through to the drums dropping out for a cry of “If there’s no tomorrow, Take this and run, I won’t hold a grudge” which leads into a big smash of rolling drums and guitars that feed into one last smash of screams of “I’ve seen it all before.”
The album’s lead single Discard Me follows, opening up with palm-muted guitars that feed into a breakneck fast opening verse and drops into the big singalong chorus “Discard me, discard me, I don’t even like you anymore.” There’s an awesome breakdown of heavy guitars mid-way through, then it builds up to heavier blasts of the chorus with repeats of “Discard me.” Check it out in the video below:
The album closes with Anchor, which Emil tells us: “Is a continuation of the previous track telling the pain of getting dumped when you’ve sacrificed everything you had for one person.” It begins with a cool guitar riff then drops into a clean verse of “She keeps saying that I’ll be OK, And there’s nothing more to say, I keep wondering if I’ll be the same, It never mattered anyway” then more intense vocals over fast-paced guitars and pounding drums. Booming guitars follow amid wild screams, then drop into another screamed verse that smashes through to the end, bringing an impressive album to a close on a real high.
On what inspires their music, Emil tells us: “All of our songs are about real-life events and written in ‘me-form.'” Swallows Tornadoes talks about personal struggle, going through depression and having anxiety. It’s extremely personal, but that’s the only way I know how to write lyrics.”
As Emil explains: “Well, I shouldn’t be the spokesman for punk, but with regards hardcore I can just say we’re so fucking lucky to have had so many awesome groups around the 2000s, really setting the bar for us young ones. Here’s a few: Snöras, Kaospilot, Rumble In Rhodos, Blood Command, JR Ewing, Amulet, Sigh & Explode and maaaaany more. On top of that, the Norwegian music industry is killing it at the moment. The underground scene is growing and people are trying harder than ever knowing the competition is huge. It’s amazing!”
We’re loving what we hear from Naga Siren and their high-energy punk hardcore is utterly infectious. There’s plenty more to come too, with a new album already in the works. As Emil tells us: “Let the people know this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you like what we’ve made until now, just wait for the future releases. We have found our matchshape now.”