Many of you will already be aware, but Greenleaf was initially conceived as a side project. Twenty-plus years, eight albums, and a number of line up changes later, founder Tommi Holappa, who was also recently interviewed by Josh for our In Search of Tone series, is still at it. I’m personally only familiar with the more recent albums featuring rock ‘n’ roll dynamo Arvid Hällagård on vocals, and Echoes From A Mass is number four for him. It’s also the second with the current line-up, who make up one of the tightest and most exciting live rock bands I’ve ever experienced.
So much for the history lesson, and on to the current release – is it more of the same? Yep, more of the same crackling, spitfire energy. More of the same poppy, yet oddly haunting, vocal hooks. More of the same deft combination of density and space.
It’s this latter element that may just be the defining one for Greenleaf, and certainly for this album, maybe even more so than previously. Some of that comes down to song writing skill, and a grasp of dynamics simply beyond the comprehension of us mere mortals. This is an outfit that know when and how to put the foot down, and when to ease up the pressure. Check out how the lockstep mid-tempo lurch in the verses of Bury Me My Son melts into the expansive choruses, followed by Hans Fröhlich’s growling bass solo and a manic guitar lead. Check out the insistent shuffle in A Hand Of Might with its multiple changes and abrupt halt. Check out the thundering toms, spacey breakdowns, and spine-tingling vocals in On Wings Of Gold. It’s a master class.
It’s a superb heavy rock album, thrilling and dynamic…
The other factor in that blend of density and space, in my opinion, is skilful production, particularly featuring a unique and canny guitar tone. The guitar is in service of the song, not the other way round.
What do I mean by that? Shaman readers, and writers of course, including me, tend to be pretty comfortable with impossibly dense and sludgy guitar tones. So it’s pretty easy for me to conceive of some of the weaker bands or albums in my favourite heavy genres as only existing for the purpose of someone showing off the contents of their pedal board – i.e. a song in service of the guitar tone.
You won’t hear that here – the guitar is heavy but controlled, not overwhelming, and the guitar and bass are not vying for supremacy. Every member of the band has a place and a role, all in service of the song.
Anyway, you should waste no more time reading my ramblings – if you haven’t already heard it, go listen to Echoes From A Mass immediately. It’s a superb heavy rock album, thrilling and dynamic. Previous album Hear The Rivers is one of my all-time favourites, and this one is easily its equal.
Scribed by: Rob Bryant