These days I feel like I barely have any time to listen to new music let alone write about it (coincidentally, a recent Shaman internal audit has concluded that the average standard of reviews has improved significantly over the last few months). Still, even I can make time for the next instalment of Ripple Music’s flagship split-LP series Turned To Stone.
Sort of following the recent trend in the series where each chapter showcased two bands from the same country, Chapter 6 takes us to Scandinavia to listen to Norway’s Captain Caravan and Finland’s Kaiser. I’m guessing that Sweden might occupy the entirety of Ripple’s next vinyl series, so they decided to steer clear for now. As you would hope and expect Ripple Music sojourn to the Nordic countries brings us two steaming helpings of old school stoner rock, with a pleasantly different seasoning given to each.
Hopefully you will have heard Captain Caravan preview a track here in early October, but if not, I reckon I can manage a quick introduction. Captain Caravan are a four-piece from Egersund who’ve been bringing the rock since 2015. They’ve released one album to date on the excellent label Cursed Tongue Records, which is pretty much as strong a guarantee for quality that you’re likely to find.
From the get-go, Captain Caravan set their stall out to showcase their no-nonsense take on old-school stoner rock. Chunky guitars, strong mid-tempo groove and vocals that would sit comfortably on any number of ‘90s grunge records. Opener Down is a quality track and the next, Sailors, is even better – there’s something really striking about the narrative verse sections that contrast against the simple repeating riff that almost serves as a chorus. The lyrics are interesting too – it sounds like it’s based on a war story from somewhere, but I’ve never quite managed to place it.
Captain Caravan clearly know their way around a good quiet verse/loud chorus dynamic, shown to good effect on Painted Wolf and across the five-and-a-half minutes of She Can the band build up some serious head-nodding momentum. The band close their side of the record with Void, which is both instantly familiar and thoroughly enjoyable. The chugging palm-muted riff during the verses, angsty lyrics, and a brief wash of keys at the end.
it’s one of the best EPs I’ve heard in a good while…
The Norwegians don’t try to reinvent the wheel with their five tracks and I’m totally fine with that. There have been plenty of records over the last few years to show that stoner rock doesn’t need any bells and whistles to be awesome, and Captain Caravan are refreshingly unpretentious in their approach. That said, overall, I found their side of the split to be solid rather than spectacular – there are good songs and good musicianship, but it just lacks that special something to make it truly memorable.
Doing our now-standard imaginary flip of the record brings us to Kaiser, a three-piece from Finland. As with Captain Caravan, these guys seem to have released one album (this time on Oak Island Records back in 2018) which also passed me by. Now, while Kaiser are altogether heavier and fuzzier, their side is still very much stoner rock in the style we all know and love. Just to prove this point, opener Howl heavily features NASA space mission voice samples and reminds me of El Thule (if anyone remembers them) – big clanky bass sound, really heavy guitar and slightly abrasive vocals. Actually, it’s a really excellent track that moves through several different sections but retains an irresistible groove throughout.
Next up is Fire, a two-and-a-half-minute blast of foot-to-the-floor rock that leads you nicely into Black Sand Witch (I was disappointed when I saw the title written down – I thought from listening that someone had finally written a song about what you found in your school locker after coming back from a two-week holiday). Again, Kaiser really bring to mind the classics – apart from being an awesome melding of super-fuzzy riffs and sweet solos, this track would sit really happily on Astroqueen’s Into Submission (ask your parents).
You only get four songs from Kaiser, but in part, that’s because they finish in style with Phoenix Parts 1,2 & 3 which nudges the ten-minute mark. As you’d probably expect, it’s an epic slow burner, building from a spacey, atmospheric start, slowing to a crushing plod in the middle, and then blasting out some high-adrenaline rock just as you think it’s going to quietly fade out. Very nicely constructed.
I really enjoyed the previous instalment of the Turned To Stone series and I think Chapter 6 is even better. The Captain Caravan side is definitely worth a listen, but I think Kaiser steal the show here – it’s one of the best EPs I’ve heard in a good while.