(Trails and Passes)
Staff Rating: Crank this to 8.5 of 11
First off, we would like to thank Small Stone Records for helping to keep the stoner rock genre alive and well. They are a label that continues to pump out talented artists that either carry that stoner rock torch or inject some new and fresh ideas into this genre, either way, they all deserve some recognition. One of these bands is the Sweden-based Greenleaf, although they have been around for fourteen-plus years and released six albums; we consider them to be a bit obscure to the masses.
Started as a side project from Tommi Holappa, guitarist of the mighty Dozer and other various musicians, Greenleaf released their first EP in 2000. Through the years they have had revolving members come and go, but the one constant mainstay in the band is Tommy. Their style of stoner rock has always been straight forward, fast-paced and trippy at times along with tons of spacious jams that will put you in a tailspin.
On their newest and sixth release, Trails and Passes, they continue with this style of sprawling stoner rock and it’s a good thing, why change a formula that works so well. That’s an impressive feat to accomplish throughout the years, since each album featured different members. New singer Arvid Jonsson fits right into this formula flawlessly. His clean, powerful and sometimes laid back vocal style never hinders the music; it actually blends in naturally and benefits the album. The quick-paced opener "Our Mother Ash" has a Dozer quality to it, we love the fact they inject some background vocals into this song. We will hear these backing vocals throughout the album, giving it a spacious, open feel. The next cut, the aptly named "Open Deep" just flows at a pace that will have you mesmerized, very impressive, also the percussion here is infectious. One of the stand out tracks for us is "Equators," the rhythm here just sticks with you, the vocals and drums just feed off each other very well.
With tracks like "Depth of the Sun" and "Humans," the album just keeps delivering one quality song after another. These are not the traditional cookie cutter stoner rock songs; they are involved and thought out well. Again, the rhythm just sucks you in and the lyrics are intriguing as well. The atmospheric "With Eyes Open Wide" is eight minutes and seven seconds of tripped-out spacious rock. The falsetto vocal range layered over the background vocals is quite impressive, something we do not hear enough of in this genre. If you’re on the fence with them, just listen to the catchy "The Drum," it is very likeable and you’ll no doubt be a converted fan. The last two tracks, "Bound to be Machines" and "Trails and Passes" keeps this ship flying. They have it all: monstrous jams, spacious vibes and driven stoner rock tempos.
Greenleaf has been steady and busy for a side project, as Trails and Passes is another great chapter for the band. We have no doubt they will become a mainstay in your collection of stoner rock. And if you’re new to them, this is a perfect album to get into, and then the fun will start as you have five other albums to explore. - 5/18/2014
Standout Tracks: Open Deep, Equators