A step up and beyond for the Swedish crew
Two years after the release of their self-titled album (which was their fourth effort after releasing three under the name of Fingerspitzengefühl), Swedish (Stockholm) based outfit Switch Opens are back with their long awaited fifth effort Joint Crash with their new label Transubstans Records.
In terms of direction and sound, Switch Opens (who comprise of vocalist/bassist Jesper Skarin, guitarists Tomas Bergstrand and Mikael Tuominen and drummer Anders Bartonek) haven’t strayed too far from where they last left things on their previous album, with the bulk of Joint Crash still based firmly in the progressive/psychedelic stoner rock realm. But as evident last time around, Switch Opens isn’t the kind of group to stick to the rules that most follow, with plenty of unexpected twists amongst the familiar, helping to give the band a sound that’s not entirely easy to pin down.
The opening track Square sees the band starting off proceedings in a slower pace with some huge booming riffs and some heavy presence from the bass that’s constantly underpinning the whole song. But it’s when the vocals kick in that Switch Opens show some real change from their former sound, with the verses showcasing a far cleaner and melodic side to Skarin’s vocals, which is quite a departure from his tougher and bellowing growls. The clean vocals add a hypnotising/mantra-like effect to the song, which is perfectly offset with the heavier riff sections where the band really turns things up.
The follow-up track Mirror Man is a little more straightforward sounding for the most part, with the band delivering their trademark stoner rock sound mostly throughout the song. But that’s not to say there isn’t a twist here and there, because there’s a distinctly psychedelic touch added to the guitars to give the song a slightly ‘70’s vibe (much in the same way that The Atomic Bitchwax have done for years), while the addition of chaotic saxophone sounds around the middle helps inject a bit of unhinged experimentation to the whole equation.
Pompous Pumping Heart is a definite favourite on the album with Skarin putting in a great vocal performance with his newly unearthed cleaner efforts, while the song’s overall transition from the quieter and more foreboding vibe of the start, towards a heavier and densely guitar driven conclusion sounds like a natural shift of mood over the course of its epic lengthy running time.
Both the riff drenched Freak Sect and the primitive drive of Chemistry could have easily been mistaken as cuts from the band’s last release, barring the injection of huge melodic choruses that really make the songs stand out, while the spacey and hypnotic Like Fire is a bizarre experiment that combines monk-like chants over a guitar soundtrack that brings to mind Soundgarden’s Searching With My Good Eye Closed (from 1991’s Badmotorfinger).
But the real gems on Switch Opens’ latest release are found towards the end. On The Reunion, the band really stretch out their sound to allow keyboards to add depth to what is otherwise an epic nine minute spaced out jam, while the closing title track Joint Clash sounds unlike anything the band have ever attempted before, with song retaining its calm demeanour and vibe throughout, and the harmony vocals taking the lead rather than the guitars.
On Joint Crash, Switch Opens have remained true to the sound that was heard on their last album, but pushed the experimental elements further afield to give their sound greater space to move around in.
Apart from a shift in greater experimentation, the band’s song writing has also come a long way, with none of the eight compositions overstaying their welcome, despite their lengthy running times.
In the end, Joint Crash is far more interesting, thought provoking and memorable than the band’s last release. And as far as I’m concerned, that ticks all the right boxes in my book. Joint Crash therefore comes highly recommended.