Are You Nervous? by Swedish Death Candy

Release date: September 27, 2019
Label: Hassle Records

Just with a glance at both of Swedish Death Candy’s album covers, there are visual clues their second album is going to be a shift in sound and vision compared to their self-titled debut. The first is a lysergic eye fuck, man, its nearly as trippy as Goat’s World Music art design, and lying within is a youthful, inventive blast of heavy out-bursting fuzzy psych, and exuberant driven grooves. For their follow up, Are You Nervous? the front cover hastens one at a guess that a possible modern kind of sophisticated progressive rock may be in-store. However, fret not.

Louis Perry explains in the press release the title reflects the current political and social climate, ‘‘Environmental issues, technological advances…….it feels like we’re on the brink of massive change’’, but it could quite possibly be relating to second album nerves due, to a certain degree, in a musical shift which expands the highway lanes for the band to drive forever forward.

The covers on both-of these SDC albums do not lie, but hints in a different context regarding the new record, as the cover’s sharper, pristine artwork is more aligned to the immediately apparent smoothing over of the rougher edges, a polished sheen in the production stakes, and a slight toning down on the wild overhanging guitar fuzz. This is largely in part due to the band spending more time in the studio focusing on arrangements and layering textures compared to previously doing it live like a gig in the studio.

Thankfully, there isn’t a total neglect of their wild flinging psychedelia, but this time around there is a particular-nod to Stoner Rock, or to refine that even more, Queens of the Stone Age. Perry’s vocals are more reminiscent this time around of Josh Homme, which never occurs to me when I listen to the debut. This is evident on the front loaded batch of songs which are more song-orientated, ‘Interstellar Love Machine’, ‘Modern Child’, and ‘A Date With Caligula’. Don’t get me wrong, they are all very well crafted tunes. And they still display SDC’s inventiveness, (both albums display an avalanche of creative ideas in full flow) but in these songs they have traded in slightly some of their early standout distinctiveness.

However, for fans of their debut, the good news is as the album progresses the psychedelic and progressive tendencies do come bouncing forward with aplomb, and this is when the album becomes more interesting and enjoyable. Fourth song ‘Always’ and the desire for unconditional love, is a modern update on the Beatles ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, all backwards sounding guitars before an unleashing of a sturdy hard rock onslaught. Then, the excellent ‘Green’ swings gloriously back and forth between a gentle finger picking melody, squealing guitars, and a hard driving rock prowess.

In its seven minutes plus flurry, the longest track and album highlight ‘Journey To The 13th floor’ demonstrates they are still at their best when they are never afraid to change many gears within a song. From an opening galloping rocker, we are then on a journey taking in Tony Iommi’s string bending doomy power chords, echoes of Wooden Shjips lysergic calmness, before a mind-melting pile-driving thrilling sonic assault to finish.

Are You Nervous? revels in diversity, ‘The Scream’ evokes elements of Thee Oh Sees circa Orc and Weird Exit’s guitar jabs and squirts. While the slow burners are the drum machine pat rhythms and synth led ‘Space Holiday’ displays traces of the Flaming Lips. ‘Slowly’ initially recalls Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’, but the latter two both point towards SDC can successfully write and record songs with a lighter, spacious, touch.

Overall, Swedish Death Candy’s Are You Nervous? fits somewhere in-between QOSTA and Thee Oh Sees. They still boast a multitude of ideas, twisting their sound in greater wider varieties, and while this leaves some excursions work better than others, SDC look like they are going to join the above-named artists’ proficiency at consistently pushing and pulling their sound in a multitude of directions. Time, of course, will tell how they progress next. But, I expect these songs will sound great in a live setting from a band who were one of the highlights at 2018’s London Desertfest.

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