Sleepwulf – Sunbeams Curl
Heavy Psych Sounds
Released on 18/02/22
Running Time: 35:49
Review by Dark Juan
Bonjour, mes petite enfants terribles! It is I, the mighty and puissant Satanic love machine that you know as Dark Juan, who, rather than his usual exuberant defiling of virgins and over the top displays of joie-de-vivre, is actually quite fatigued and is hunched double on the sofa at Dark Juan Terrace.
No, I am not hunched over in a state of indiscretion. Filth.
I have just had a rather… extraordinary duty period at work and I have the pleasure of a 72 hour one to look forward to before the end of the week and your favourite Satan-supporting metal hack writer is a bit tired. 120 hour working weeks will do that to people. Anyway, I did mention this to Chief Wrangler Beth “I Don’t Want Your Fucking Excuses, You’ve Had Sleepwulf Since February, I Want RESULTS, You Massive Shitbiscuit, Lest I Unleash The Spirit Of Owain Glyndwr On You And You Know What His Views About The English Were Because You Lived In Wales Once” Jones and she was sympathetic, where I was merely pathetic.
So, two months after release, I have finally pulled my fatigued finger out of my exhausted arse to tell you about “Sunbeams Curl”, the latest platter to be released by Swedish / Scottish Psychedelic Proto-occult Metallers Sleepwulf (to be fair, they are three quarters Swedish and a mere quarter Scottish) on the rather groovy Heavy Psych Sounds label. To paint a picture with words – Sleepwulf sound like they have access to a time machine and a secret studio stacked to the fucking gills with good old fashioned, valve driven analogue equipment, such is the organic and retro element to their sound. Granted, they are ploughing a furrow initially reopened by the likes of Wolfmother, but Sleepwulf are rather more interesting than the howling Australian hair pixie and his merry bunch of antipodean miscreants. How can you not be fascinating with song titles like ‘Toad Licker, Mushroom Picker’?
It is well known that Dark Juan is something of an enthusiast of all things acid-fuelled and Psychedelic – normally combining experiencing groovy albums with the assistance of psilocybe or some other reality bending replacement, but I have found today that crushing fatigue works nearly as well as a metric fuckton of LSD to alter perceptions of both music and your surroundings.
However, what’s left of Dark Juan’s cruelly abused nervous system was jolted into surprised life from the first note of album opener ‘Satan Is King’ because, well, he fucking is, isn’t he, and together my Dread Lord and I will bring down the false church and put all the fake priests and their sheep-like flocks to the sword and burn the word of God in colossal pyres of righteous, cleansing flame, demolishing the houses of all the false gods and preparing the way for the One Who Walks Backwards….
Sorry. ‘Satan Is King’ does not fuck about, a simple and short lead line leads into a riff of magnificent chunkiness and the mid-ranged tones of Owen Robertson (he is NOT Swedish) reach out to drag you into his universe. This state of immediacy is actually welcome, and makes a change from a lot of Psychedelic Rock and Metal, which normally wanders around the studio looking for the spliff its dropped for the first two to five minutes of an album before remembering why it is there and fucking GETTING ON with it. Second song ‘Green Man Dead’ immediately calls to mind the mighty Cream, but with a harder metallic edge – the groove-o-meter is already in the red. With Sleepwulf we are risking possibly catastrophic levels of grooviness. There is not a high enough Groove Quotient in the world. I’m not sure the universe as we know it can survive the whole album and it all might collapse into some form of ubergroovy, drug-fuelled, worldwide orgy of free love.
It has to be said, I’m not against this idea and I would be delighted if Sleepwulf were the soundtrack because they are frankly a fucking good band. The guitar work of Sebastian Ihme is absolutely spellbinding – switching from Cream-like blues to snarling Metal and drifting Psychedelia with ease and fluidity. The bass player (Viktor Sjöström) is also a damned fine musician, his fuzzy, chunky bass anchoring the music beautifully – especially on ‘Sex Magic Manifestation’ where his prodigious bottom end follows the sinuous main riff closely and rumbles nicely along during the solo. Also, Dark Juan, being a practitioner, always appreciates songs about the occult and sex magic, doesn’t think there’s nearly enough of them and particularly enjoyed the line “A Garden Of Eden on the end of your tongue”. Yes, yes INDEED…
Things get really interesting on ‘Stoned Ape’ where the band go for a full spectrum epic Stoner and Hammond organ extravaganza. And then Sleepwulf really turn the tables on the listener who thinks that they may have a handle on the music on ‘Tyrant Song’ where they gleefully out-Tull Jethro Tull in a wholly exuberant and undeniably cheerful fashion. To say I am enjoying this album (I’m on my third back-to-back listen as I write this nonsense) is like saying the sea is fucking wet. It’s jolly splendid!
Production wise, on my first time round, I thought the sound was woolly and indistinct, but I was wrong. The mix is a very subtle thing, making the music sound more classic than it has any right to be. ‘Sunbeams Curl’ sounds just like it belongs in flares and a ratty denim jacket, in a field, tripping balls on LSD like they are a fucking MKULTRA / MKNAOMI test subject, circa 1972. And this, for the style of music being performed, is EXACTLY fucking right. A supremely clear and sterile, dare I say modern production would kill this album stone dead – instead there is an organic, all-encompassing warmth and LIFE to the sound and everything is actually perfectly audible, even the drums of Carl Lindberg, even though they are sat quite far back in the mix.
What are the downsides of this album then? Well, sometimes Owen Robinson’s vocal limitations make for some clipped attempts at phrasing and it feels like he doesn’t really let rip with his singing (he sounds supremely laid back) on the record. Live, I can easily imagine him turning into a demented whirling dervish. And that’s about it. The songwriting and musical arrangements are superb and the lyrics shot through with a wry humour and an overarching theme exploring the human condition.
Well worth splurging your hard-earned on, these guys. If you like classic, Bluesy Hard Rock or Psychedelic madness, or even a bit of Theatrical Prog, Sleepwulf will be right up your street. If you’re open to listening to other genres within Rock and Metal and you want a starting place to dip into the rainbow world of Stoner Rock and the genres I detailed previously then this is a fine place to start. Dip your toe in and be amazed.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Det patenterade Dark Juan-systemet för blodstänk) officially gives everyone notice that Sleepwulf are on the shortlist of Dark Juan’s top ten releases of 2022 already. 10/10 for a fucking banging record.
01. Satan Is King
02. Green Man Dead
03. Sex Magic Manifestation
04. Stoned Ape
05. Man Under The Mountain
06. Tyrant Song
07. Toad Licker, Mushroom Picker
08. Bury Me Backwards
Viktor Sjöström – Bass
Carl Lindberg – Drums
Sebastian Ihme – Guitars
Owen Robertson – Vocals
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