I’m not entirely sure what sort of cosmic coincidence occurred that has me reviewing not one, but TWO killer, Italian bands, BOTH from Sardinia Italy, within a month of each other. First, it was the garage-fuzz of Loose Sutures, now we have heavy, stoner/psychedelic duo, Bentrees. Let me say right off the bat, I’m a huge fan of duos in rock music when done well. Big Business and Black Cobra have been two of my favorite bands of the last 20 years. Sheffield bashers Wet Nuns lone record was in heavy rotation for many months and regularly shows up on my playlists. I’m also a shameless fanboy of alt-rock duo Local H. To be able to pull off a rock ‘band’ with two people, effectively, always earns my respect.
So, does Bentrees make it work as a duo? Absolutely. Two Of Swords is an outstanding record. As I’m not familiar with the band’s debut record Psychollage, and only hearing Two Of Swords lead single Brain War right here on The Sleeping Shaman, I came into this review with fresh ears, and no expectations. I queued up Two Of Swords on repeat and dived in headfirst. Two Of Swords is an airy, spacey, and at times hypnotic record, that’s fluid and displays a keen sense of flow & dynamics throughout. Tracks are long, but the way they ebb and flow, they never overstay their welcome.
Opener Sunrise And Sunset takes its time getting rolling, but that’s fine as vocalist/guitarist Riccardo Podda’s main riff is most welcome, as is drummer Mauro Cocco‘s cymbal crashes and laid-back approach. Instantly, this reminds me of early Dozer, another of my all-time favorites, with Podda’s vocals, in particular, reminding me of Dozer’s legendary guitarist/vocalist Fredrik Nordin. It also has elements of Jalamanta-era Brant Bjork tonally, but it’s most certainly a riff-heavy, fuzzed-the-fuck-out, good-time bash-fest of a song.
Yellow follows a similar, if slightly less-aggressive vibe, but features a super-catchy, fuzzy single-note riff that weaves through the body of the song. However, Podda displays all sorts of riffs and a real sense of dynamics throughout the track. Cocco’s rhythm work is notable as well. He too seems to have a real sense of space and dynamics with his beats, cymbal crashes, and other percussive sounds. Yellow is a slow burn, but the build-up and payoff at the end again display the duo’s excellent sense of dynamics.
Two Of Swords is an airy, spacey, and at times hypnotic record, that’s fluid and displays a keen sense of flow & dynamics throughout…
Hermit continues Bentrees aforementioned sense of space and dynamics. The duo really excels at this, Podda’s guitar work, his riffs, and his sparse, effects-laden single-note plucking, is once again noteworthy, as is Cocco‘s sense of when to hit hard, and when to lay back. One of the centerpieces of the record for sure.
The aforementioned Brain War is probably the most straightforward rocker on the album, and where, to my ears, the early-Dozer comparisons are valid, in particular, Podda’s vocals sounding uncannily similar to Nordin’s earlier output with Dozer. Tonally, Podda sounds fantastic as well. Fuzzy, but never really overly crunchy, his tone fits the music perfectly.
Flowing Waters is the other centerpiece and my favorite track on Two Of Swords. Podda’s guitar work is once again stellar, as this spacey, introspective track reveals layers of sound, all the while Cocco lays behind the beat with his cymbal crashes complimenting Podda deftly. At over eleven minutes Flowing Waters is massive, epic, and amazing. Two Of Swordstouches on duality, in nature and in the universe, and Flowing Waters represents this idea expertly.
Dust ‘n’ Gold takes its time bringing Two Of Swords to a close, which was OK with me, as I was down for one more spacey ride with the duo as everything that has made this album such a cool listen is on vivid display one last time. Bentrees and their second album Two Of Swords was an all-around pleasant surprise for me. This album is great start-to-finish. Bentrees are more than capable of pulling off their music as a duo, and proving once again that Italy is fertile ground for heavy, psychedelic rock.
Scribed by: Martin Williams