As I suspect is the case with many of you, I first came across Sweden’s Kingnomad on Ripple Music’s Second Coming Of Heavy series where they ripped up the third chapter alongside Bonehawk. With a stated aim of ‘making music that combined the old 70s sound with nice haunting vocal arrangements, and lyrics that could carry you off to dark and distant worlds’, it came as no surprise that you could easily lump them together with many other bands ploughing that 70s-occult-retro-doom furrow. That said, while Kingnomad might not have been offering anything startlingly different, they were at least doing it with panache. Yes, you read right. I really did say panache.
Their first album, 2017’s Mapping The Inner Void, was stylistically similar but their second (2018’s The Great Nothingness) showed the band really starting to develop their own unique sound. I listened to it again recently and was struck how much the first side sounded like a more psych version of Fleet Foxes (I’m guessing it’s the unusual vocal arrangements), and how the B-side sounded like a more psych version of Fleet Foxes after taking a bucketload of psychoactive substances. It seems as though Kingnomad were just warming up as Sagan Om Rymden, which is full to bursting with prog weirdness to nestle alongside side their doom-infused psychedelia, shows the band developing further.
Opener Omniverse is an intriguing track, heavily featuring keys that sit somewhere between late-60s/early-70s organ and 80s synth. I wasn’t initially sure what to make of it at first, but after a few listens I can confidently say it’s a really good track. The dreamy vocal arrangements ensure that it’s recognisable as Kingnomad, but the added keys and general proggyness makes it feel quite different from their earlier work. Most importantly, it’s an excellent song that doesn’t overstay its welcome. However, much of Sagan Om Rymden stays on more familiar ground and struggles to hit the same heights. It’s all good, but I’d not say that much of it was great.
Second track Small Beginnings has a few brief electronic flourishes, but for the most part could have nestled comfortably on any of their previous recordings. The Omega Experiment brings an interesting contract between a lively verse centred round some bouncy organ (ooer) and a more chilled chorus. Tillbakablik – The Usurper King, apart from having an excellent title, provides a similar contrast: after a lengthy and super mellow intro, it picks up pace in the second half of the song which, while it might not flat-out rawk, does at least rock in a 70s prog sort of way.
The dreamy vocal arrangements ensure that it’s recognisable as Kingnomad, but the added keys and general proggyness makes it feel quite different from their earlier work…
The record as a whole alternates between blissed-out, mellow psych and livelier proggy sections. Some of the time it works well, as demonstrated by Multiverse, which includes some interesting percussion and some eastern-flavoured guitar work. Elsewhere, for instance during The Fermi Paradox and The Creation Hymn, I found myself appreciating the musicianship but starting to wish that someone would stamp on a fuzz pedal or, better still, fuzz pedals and crank out an awesome Neanderthal riff.
That said, Sagan Om Rymden does finish on a strong note as album-closer The Unanswered Question is for me the best track on the record. Centring round a tasty bass riff that could almost, but not quite, be described as funky, it provides an energy and groove that I found a bit lacking elsewhere.
I certainly wouldn’t want to give the impression that Sagan Om Rymden is a bad record. It demonstrates a confidence and a willingness to evolve into new direction, as well as showcasing Kingnomad’s excellent musicianship, but it isn’t quite for me. I doubt that it’s a coincidence that the tracks I enjoy most are the more energetic ones and I found that much of the album is just too languid and mellow for my tastes. Still, I can appreciate the artistry and technique underlying it and it’s definitely worth a listen if psych or prog-rock are your bag.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc