Döda Havet – Tid och rum
Once in a while, an album shows up, almost out of nowhere, and instantly knocks me out cold, managing to hit all my weak spots and settle firmly in my ears.
The Swedes in Döda Havet are balancing perfectly on that edge between being progressive rock, and on the other side clearly coming from the side of alternative / art-rock. Still, there are enough progressive elements and quirky songwriting here that any fan of bands like Anathema, Anekdoten, or late-era Marillion should find plenty to enjoy about “Tid och rum” (Time and Space). One of my fellow Progspace writers mentioned that they also feel like a sibling of Vulkan, another excellent Swedish band we reviewed here just a short while ago, and I can’t help but agree with him.
It feels natural to describe the band simply as “progressive rock”, but that might conjure up images of the big 70’s bands. Döda Havet has definitely some of those genes in its DNA, but there is a much more contemporary, modern feel to the band’s music.
From reading my initial paragraph, I guess it’s apparent that I did not know about the band before this album dropped into my email. But going back into their discography revealed only one previous release, namely their self-titled debut album from 2016. And honestly, since discovering the band, I’ve spent quite a few hours listening to the debut album as well. It’s excellent in so many ways, but this review is, of course, not about that album.
I feel “positive melancholia” is a good way to describe the emotional impact of Döda Havets music. It’s that kind of good memory that shows up in your mind occasionally, of places and events in your life you enjoyed or people you loved, but at the same time a sense of sadness that you can’t go back there. Those moments are indeed lost in time and space.
There is a sense of longing in the swedes music, exemplified in a track like ‘Atlantis Mitt’ (which could mean “My Atlantis” in Swedish, but also “the centre of Atlantis”). A haunting, wistful melody, carried efficiency and with great pathos by vocalist and guitarist Staffan Stensland Vinrot. The track communicates a longing to find yourself, or perhaps your place among people. A feeling of finally returning to some honest sense of self. Vinrot is the core the band was built around, as the idea of putting together a band around his compositions happened after he recorded his music in the studio of, now Döda Havet bassist, Lawrence Mackrory. I haven’t been able to find out if “Tid och rum” was recorded at the same location, but on this album, the sound is precise, warm and pleasant. As a side note, fans of more classic progmetal might, of course, know Mackrory from death/thrashers Darkane, or for being the vocalist on the original edition of Andromeda‘s debut album “Extension of the Wish.
Döda Havet – Atlantis Mitt (click here if the video does not play)
A part of why I enjoyed this so much, is the lyrical content, where I, as a Norwegian, am luckily familiar enough with the Swedish language, to enjoy them. They are beautiful little poems and generally add to the overall melancholic feel of the album. I’m not gonna try my hand at translating the lyrical content, as with poetry or lyrics, I feel meaning often gets lost (or even added) in translation. But I can say as much as they are connected to the human experience, whether its dreams, mental-health, loneliness or a longing to find back to your true “home” and with that your honest self. I feel like Stensland Vinrot genuinely has something he wants to communicate with his lyrics and that sincerity is apparent in his writings.
After several listens, it starts to become clear how rich and detailed the music of Döda Havet really is. The songs are all layered with delicate melodies, supported by a warm hearty pulse perfectly applied by Mackrory, on top of a rock-solid rhythmic foundation built by drummer Martin Pettersson. Together with the guitars from the above mentioned Vinrot and Peter Garde Lindholm they create a surprisingly measured, yet massive sound. Listen to the ending of the second track of the album ‘Arcana’ for an example of the heavy groove the band at times creates.
The heaviness mentioned above is perfectly contrasted and amplified by remarkable additions from keyboardist Julia Stensland Vinrot. She masterfully enhances the atmospheres created by the band, at times carrying the songs, and at other times supplementing the sound with delicious little intricacies. If there is an “unsung hero” in this band, it is her. Listen to the details of one of my favourite tracks, the heart-wrenchingly beautiful ‘Hjärnspöket” to hear examples of what I’m trying to describe.
Döda Havet – Hjärnspöket (click here if the video does not play)
In a genre where it feels like every other release is a 75-minute concept album, it is refreshing to receive a shorter, more concise release. “Tid och rum” is just around 35 minutes, and I feel that is the perfect length. That does not mean I do not want to hear more music from the band, but for this experience, it’s just what’s needed. Eight self-contained songs, uniformly connected by the general mood of the album. Nothing more, nothing less. I won’t go on any longer about the sophistication of this release. I’ll just say that“Tid och rum”, ladies and gentlemen, is a modest little masterpiece!
- Atlantis mitt
- 7000 dagar
- Levande eller död