Album: Vår Del Av Stan
While many incorrectly assume that a majority of musical innovation comes from the two most dominant countries in terms of world-wide music sales (the U.S. and U.K), the reality is, all over the planet, people are constantly attempting new takes on time-honored styles. Whether it was Björk and her wildly eclectic vocals and backing sounds or the mesmerizing chants of Huun-Huur-Tu, every day there is another musician attempting to pull popular music from its tragically stagnant state. Furthermore, while it is difficult to claim that they will stand the test of time, there are a small handful of very recent releases of these types of artists that are simply so fantastic, that they cannot be overlooked. Among this elite group of current artists that are presenting new and exciting musical approaches is a group that fuses together the sounds and style of surf rock with the urgency and energy of the early 1980's punk scene. Hailing from the surprisingly vibrant music community of Umeå, Sweden, and standing as one of the most intriguing new artists, and most likely the only UNSIGNED band that will appear in this blog, Masshysteri. With only a pair of 7" albums and an LP to their name, the latter is one of the most stunning full length debuts in history, and easily the greatest album of 2009, standing as the most recently recorded "must own" album, Masshysteri's Vår Del Av Stan.
Discovering new bands of this nature is usually only done by one process: going to the source and "accidentally" finding their music. In my own case, this was true as Vår Del Av Stan was handed to me at Sound Pollution Records in Stockholm when, in March, I asked the manager for "the best current Swedish rock band." When I first experienced the album a few hours later in my hotel room, I was absolutely floored. The energy and technical brilliance of Masshysteri is like nothing else in music today, and they are a band that truly has "something for everyone." Having since experienced their live performance, it is clear that this band is not one of "studio magic," and they are by far one of the most original and exciting bands in the current music scene. Forming out of the band, The Vicious, and coming from the same town as International Noise Conspiracy and Cult Of Luna, it is clear that Umeå is a breeding ground for top-notch, original music. The fact that the album title roughly translates to "our part of town," is a perfect choice, as the band display to the world the best of what Umeå has to offer musically. The trio that makes up Masshysteri present some of the most honest and straightforward, high energy rock to be heard in decades, and there is not a moment anywhere on Vår Del Av Stan that is anything short of phenomenal. Regardless of whether you speak Swedish or not, the power and spirit of the music and vocals transcends language, and once again proves that music has no barriers.
In many ways, Masshysteri is an all-star band of Umeå musicians. Although they formed out of The Vicious, the reality is, each band member has a very impressive musical resumé. Drummer Erik (whose last name I simply cannot find) is also the singer for the band Insurgent Kid, and his playing throughout Vår Del Av Stan is truly phenomenal. Easily able t0 slide from slower, more menacing playing to outright explosive cadences, his amazing talents are spotlighted on the song, "Istiden." Coming from her work with International Noise Conspiracy, singer and bassist, Sara Almgren truly finds the perfect vehicle for her abilities with Masshysteri. Easily changing between winding basslines, like that found on "Lule" and more aggressive, almost sinister sounds like on "Falsk," Almgren proves that she is in a class all her own. Rounding out the band is singer and guitarist, Robert Patterson. Having honed his skills with bands like Regulations and The Lost Patrol Band, he has never sounded as good as he does throughout Vår Dev Al Stan. With absolutely blistering guitar progressions all over the record, there has simply never been as perfect a blend of surf guitar with a punk ethos. Able to bring power chords as well as truly stunning patterns, like that found on "Liv Och Död," Patterson is truly a one-of-a-kind talent, and is easily one of the most creative players in modern music.
The music itself is easily one of the most unique and fantastic sounds to emerge from anywhere in the last few years. Taking influence from everyone from Chuck Berry (whom they often cover live) to Black Flag to Dick Dale, this is a group of musicians who are clearly well versed in a wide range of musical styles. With songs like "Hatkärlek" and "Monoton Tid" screaming with the vibe of huge waves and beaches, the speed and attitude that the trio puts behind it makes it an entirely new, wonderful musical experience. It is very much due to the amazing vocal performances that run throughout all of Vår Del Av Stan that the album is absolutely addicting. Though Patterson handles nearly all of the lead vocals, the regular harmonies from Almgren take their vocal sound to another level. Their voices blend perfectly, whether they are both singing or screaming, and one would be hard pressed to find a finer vocal duo in today's music scene. As they share and dual the vocal sections, one can quickly feel the attitude behind the words, and there are countless sing-along anthems on the album. Again, even if one does not understand any Swedish at all, the spirit behind the vocals are never lost, and are absolutely just as enjoyable as they are to native speakers. Though the music throughout Vår Del Av Stan is extraordinary, the vocals from Patterson and Almgren are the perfect finishing touch, and make the album a truly special experience.
The age old saying that music can transcend any barrier has rarely been more true then in the case of Swedish rockers, Masshysteri. With a completely unique and captivating sound that fuses together surf rock and punk rock, the band has created a sound that will certainly prove to be timeless. Currently unsigned, but distributed by small labels throughout the world, the group are unquestionably the most exciting and original band to come out in years, and after experiencing Vår Del Av Stan, one can only wait impatiently for their next full length release. With flawless musicianship and all of the authentic energy and attitude that one could want, Masshysteri are poised to be the band that finally proves that Umeå, Sweden is one of the hotbeds within the current music scene. Topping off their sensational music with the stunning vocal combination of Robert Patterson and Sara Almgren, Masshysteri can easily hold their own with any band anywhere on the planet. Perhaps the ultimate "DIY" band in the current music scene, their raw and stripped down sound is everything one could want in high energy, original rock music, and the way in which they infuse the sound and spirit of surf-rock is nothing short of phenomenal. Though only released in early 2009, the debut full length album from Masshysteri, Vår Del Av Stan, is truly an "instant classic" and absolutely the most original and exciting album to come out in years, making it an absolutely essential album to own.
Standout tracks: "Vår Del Av Stan," "Begrav Mig," and "Monoton Tid."