When I first discovered Besvarjelsen on a Doomed and Stoned compilation, Doomed and Stoned in Sweden, I was hooked. Alone remains one of my favorite songs of all-time, and pretty much hit that ever-changing list immediately. Along with Messa’s She Knows/Tulsi, it remains on heavy-rotation four years later.
But my reaction to the album, Vallmo, was one of disappointment. There was so much potential in the band, and yet the album felt tepid, timid and undeveloped. The vocals were so buried in the mix, Lea came across as shy and hesitant- afraid to stand out. Everything sounded muffled: it didn’t live up at all to my expectations. This track off the album is a good example:
To be fair, the album has risen substantially for me, and I find myself going back to it every month or so, since the release of the EP Frost in 2019. I now look at it as a gem of sorts, waiting to be polished. Frost was a big step forward, its only drawback being way too short. But it was certainly polished!
Which brings me to Atlas, and what could challenge MWWD as my favorite album of the year so far. Every criticism of Vallmo that I had has disappeared: the writing is tight, the production is excellent, and Lea emerges as one of the strongest singers in the genre.
It’s a shame that this album isn’t getting all the attention it deserves. But I suspect it will land pretty high on the Doom Charts later this week, along with more reviews.
From beginning to end, Atlas is an instant classic. It has an impressive amount of variety on it, from straight-ahead RAWK to an epic one-two punch to close it out, leaving me wanting more. Stand out tracks? All of them. This is an album, in the most classic sense, which is a welcome trend in heavy music these days. This is just one of the tracks, a moody and emotional piece that seems suited to Lea’s gifts:
But have to admit, the two closing tracks: Obscured by Darkness and Divided Ends are what keep me hooked. I’m not so sure the rest of the album would fare as well for me if they didn’t bring some massive fuzz on more long-form songs. Divided Ends is especially heavy, long, and down-right smokey. It’s like they took everything they’ve ever done and distilled it into this final monster.
What’s interesting is it’s not really a Doom record: I don’t think Atlas fits into any one of the dozens of sub-genres we read about and tag. It’s just an outstanding hard and heavy rock album. I’ve seen comments comparing Besvarjelsen to Windhand and Messa as well as citing various other influences from NWOBHM, Desert rock, to even punk. True, but that’s a double-edged sword in my view. Sure, it gives one a point of reference, but it also diminishes what they are accomplishing. Besvarjelsen is their own thing, with a distinctive and maturing sound all their own. I especially love the disciplined use of a theramin-type synth on the guitar. Very Uriah Heepy, which always scores point with me. They have many influences, but their take on them is more a nod of respect than a rehashing of days gone by.
Is Besvarjelesen the greatest band in the world, or is Atlas the greatest album of 2022? Heck no. But they have certainly joined the ranks with this release, worthy of discussion and are clearly one of the finest heavy bands in the world.
PS: one last thing. This is how you pronounce the name…