Sounding like the name of a Scandinavian craft beer, Besvärjelsen (‘Conjuring’) may hail from Sweden, but conjure (pun intended) imagery, aesthetics and a sound that has been dragged straight from a cool starry night in Nevada. Harkening to the glory days of Kyuss, Sleep and the like but maintaining an exploratory psychedelic feel, these Swede stoner rockers could best be described as ‘Tame Impala with balls’.
‘Mara’ opens with a simple kick drum and blues-style riff that evokes both an Eastern twang and a Black Sabbath via Quentin Tarantino ethos. With an almost horror-show vibe, the band take a turn and plummet into a filthy sludge riff. Distant, sultry vocals of female lead singer drift lazily in to view, a soaring style that helps conjure the sense of wandering the desert. Multi-layered cross-gender harmonies come through a few minutes in, lines so catchy I almost forgot they aren’t in English. A powerful chord stomp around halfway melts easily into buried soloing and a creeping bassline. A mash of disparate ideas soaking together under the sun.
A broad yet heavy early-Mastodon-era chugging intro breaks into a wash of organ synths and vocal harmonising – now in English! ‘And if the sky keeps falling down on you, I’ll burn your bridges where you stand’ they croon, implying a wanderer’s lament as the song slows to a twangy crawl. It picks up again just to hit the spot, with a ubiquitous stoner riff and a fuzzed warbly solo. Nice.
And then, breaking up the riffage-intro, ‘Roeda Rummet’ bleats an electronic warping intro, like solemn 70’s sci fi. Hard rock riff backing with clever use of harmonics and muting overlays by bass and guitar add flavour of a different kind. Vocals maintain their steady consistency, floating ethereally. Backing vocals become more prominent as the song progresses, drums eternally comfortable keeping things loose but tight at the same time. There’s ambient riffing alongside a very Deep Purple synth section. Minimalist backing of the rhythm gives flourishing and space for the others to explore whilst grounding the overall sound. It’s not often you find such a solid backing for music influenced by vast psychedelia.
A mid paced riff flings ‘Oeken’ around the corner from just behind the mesa, back into the style of previous songs. Little drum and guitar fills reminding us of Kyuss and Monster Magnet but with their distinct edge. A shorter number here, compressing the cavernous feel of prior tracks. More upfront vocal deliveries layer harmonies once again. I can see myself humming along and eventually singing on repeated listens, regardless of linguistic barriers. A stop/start riff and an epic duelling solo leads into a faster riff to polish off the relative short-and-sweetness.
‘Under en svart Himmel’ kicks in more snoozily with a cool sauntering little riff, fitting the 31-degree Celsius temperature outside today. Perfect lie-back siesta tune. Military snare rolls and open basslines stack atop one another without ever compromising the groove. Much more subdued vocals tread through the cool waters this time, harmonising but echoing effect-heavy into the background. Open psychedelia spreads effects widely over upper fret bass leads. Even a hint of shakers and rattles in there, just to add to the desert aesthetic.
Tongue-twisted title ‘I Skuggan av ditt moerker’ begins with another almost industrial haunting synth warble, giving way to another stoner style riff with clever almost melodeath lead backing. Bass and drums once providing a strong minimalist backdrop here, an almost imperceptible but delicious contrast. Again, the organs return, this time floating alongside those melodic soaring vocals. Tight rollicking drums lead back out to playful riffage and some exploratory soloing – 70’s feel a-go-go once again. Are we at Burning Man, guys?
‘Falsarium’ flitters in with a jazzy little drum play with hi-hats, with Egyptian-sounding leads. Building a sense of atmosphere, a solid yet open riff lurches in, marching steadily through the hot sun. Trade-offs between soaring vocal-only sections and more doom metal-esque riffing gives off a strange yet workable contrast. Around 4 minutes, a darker descending feel and bluesy soloing with ‘wah’ brings in the cool change of dusk and sunset. I wasn’t even thirsty and yet this outro left me sated and quenched.
Finally, we have ‘Alone’ forlornly walking under more pensive desert skies, with leads quietly harmonising. Building through this intro and relatively quiet verses to power-chord driven choruses, we sense the tension and release of bittersweet isolation. Lyrics about loneliness against the backdrop of a night sky bolster this late-night thoughtfulness. Then a wall of riffs, again moving into psychedelic territory with a harmonic interplay of guitars. Quiet tempered soloing with a simple bass and drum combo, hypnotic in pointedness. Tremolo riffing suddenly heightens and becomes quicker, feeling like the infamous crescendos of Sleepmakeswaves or Cult of Luna. Subtle sheen of synths alongside punchy bassline and palm muted rhythm guitar, snapping suddenly into an almost thrashing riff. Rising and falling, at the eleventh hour the band drift back into a very Eastern and blues sounding outro, slowly fading out over easy licks.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the ultimate psychedelic desert doom experience, a sunburnt evening adventure through the summer heat via Scandinavia. A quality foray. Thanks for the chill vibes, Besvärjelsen!
‘Vallmo’ is out on March 27. Pre-order your copy here.