In recent years, Sweden has without a doubt produced a wide range of rock bands that are heavily inspired by the sounds of 60s and 70s classic and psychedelic rock. The distinct sound qualities of these genres make it hard to stick out of the crowd with a distinct musical flavour like for example Horisont or Dead Lord do. Svartanatt (“Black Night”) decided to join the retro roundel with their self-titled first album in 2016, as well as the single Killer on the Loose last year – and now it’s time for another full-length record titled Starry Eagle Eye. The American aesthetics evoked by the title and the album cover promise music radiating freedom and good vibes. So do Svartanatt deliver?
The first song The Children of Revival is off to a good start – a classic, warm and rich guitar sound, smooth drums with a cool beat and a slightly raspy voice with a charming hint of a Scandinavian make the listener feel as if they were sitting in a Chevrolet convertible, driving along the west coast, with sunset light and a refreshing breeze in their face. What is a pity, though, is that this feeling does not carry throughout the entire song. The guitar solo comes across as a little too simple as it mostly picks up existing motifs without much variation – and then the – admittedly catchy – chorus is milked until the very end.
Wrong Side of Town luckily wakes us up again with its upbeat vibe and faster pace that is really a bit of a relief after all the repetition. Maybe the similar-sounding track title The Boys Are Back in Town adds to the impression but this song definitely has a Thin Lizzy feel to it and is heaps of fun! The sound in general is serene, crystal clear and warm at the same time. The more intense vocals are a nice contrast to this – too bad the lyrics are a bit simple.
The title Starry Eagle Eye gets us into a romantic mood with its initial slowness and dreamy guitar plucking; we then move on to a happy-sounding motif (maybe think a bit of 60s-sounding Nintendo) that keeps moving understatedly in the background when the vocals come in. It feels, though, as if this song could have benefitted from being a minute shorter.
Well, hello hammond organ and crooning voice! The vocals of Duffer are really the highlight of this tune as they showcase both raspiness and clearness of singer Jani Lehtinen‘s voice. After we move away a bit from the initial hammond organ motif, the song produces a more coherent atmosphere – which is then broken up by a transition into soli and instrumental parts that does not seem worked out thoroughly enough.
Wolf Blues starts off more quietly again, with trickling guitar melodies like shining stars that flow into a carried drum beat and emotionally charged and convincing vocals. However, this song does not seem like an entire novelty, a feeling of “I’ve heard something like this before” hovers in the air, especially after the underwhelming guitar ‘solo’ that comes in before not even half of the song is over. Six minutes appear to be too long for a ballad lacking interesting instrumental variation. The guitar run towards the end is luckily, again, a bit of a wake-up call.
Hit Him Down is charged with energy and a bit of cheeky aggression. The drums – although not incredibly creative – carry us further through the song and maintain its energy. The transition into the slightly off-sounding instrumental bridge, sounds a bit off and is, again, not eased into very smoothly – luckily, the guitar solo that works out the now introduced melodies saves the situation. But again, the song seems to carry on for too long.
We then move on to Universe Of that sets in with melancholic and raspy vocals, and emotionally charged guitar chords supported by the hammond organ; the variation in guitar sound and lovely recurring motif make this a convincing rock ballad.
Lonesome Ranger comes across as more energetic again but does not feel very innovative, either. Neither the vocals nor the instrumentals seem to come up with captivating melodies. The Swedish accent is especially charming on this track, though!
At last, Black Heart rounds off the album with a bit of road-movie atmosphere again, moving forward with grit – in contrast to the many songs that could have been a bit shorter on this record, this track really develops its true Rock’n’Roll as it unfolds and ends ‘Starry Eagle Eye’ on a positive note.
Overall, this album should be fun for fans of this particular genre or listeners who just want to relax a little to happy tunes – but it seems to lack variation, novelty and concision.
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