One of the most intriguing things in the progression of any genre is the way artists in different geographical regions put a different cultural spin on a sound, particularly those that derive from very specific areas such as the Palm Desert scene. Malossi hail from Oslo, Norway, but their origins are in the rural industrial region of Solør, to the north of the capital, near the Swedish border.
Much of their theme’s centre around the youth culture of the area: motorbike tuning, hanging out with friends and colourful characters at gas stations, and the simple pleasures of the forests and dirt roads. Their name even comes from a scooter parts supplier that’s popular with tuning fans. It all sounds like small desert-town Americana transported into Scandinavia, and in a way that also describes their sound.
Blanke Barter is Malossi‘s second full-length album, but the band have been producing music for over a decade, experience which shows in both the writing and performances. The title literally translates to ‘Shiny Moustache’ which, besides probably being some kind of in-joke, also shows that whilst Malossi are certainly proud of their culture and don’t take themselves all too seriously either.
Malossi play the kind of desert rock that will be familiar to fans of Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Clutch, Fu Manchu, Karma To Burn and others in that ilk. However, beyond their expressive Norwegian vocals, which they sing in the particular dialect of Solør that even a Norwegian speaking friend struggled to accurately translate for me, there’s also a Scandinavian influence in the song-writing too.
The band have the same kind of melodic control as other Scandinavian stoner rock acts like Truckfighters, Lowrider and Bogwife, but they also have an intriguing song-writing craft comparable to fellow countrymen Kvelertak, though without so much punk rock influence. While the band do look to expand the desert rock sound, they keep their focus on the key elements that make the genre so good: hard riffs, big hooks and fuzzy tones, all rolled-up in a subtle stoner vibe.
With Blanke Barter, Malossi have made what is easily one of the most fascinating and engaging desert rock albums I’ve heard in a while…
There are catchy riffs aplenty, and some of the best ones appear on tracks like the fast but bluesy metal of Flatnævan, which seems to evoke both Motörhead and Kyuss in equal measure. The funky Queens Of The Stone Age-esque opening track Far Hass Knut is full of dynamic riffing, and the stomping Tusen Mål Jord is a total joy with it’s surprising but utterly genius trumpet solo. The band bring out their fun side on Kløpp Dreieventiln, with its call and response vocals and Deep Purple style proto-metal riffs and leads. The bass heavy doom of Tomt Prat is one of the darker, more Black Sabbath style moments on the album, but it’s still driven by a highly memorable riff.
The band show off their tremendous song-writing skill on other tracks such as the riveting Sleep style doom of Skuld, the dynamic and melancholic Kje Med Are, and the stunning Kaffekjæft with its massive chorus and immense lead guitar work. The riffs on Vante Sko sound like a heavier take on AM-era Arctic Monkeys, while the bitter-sweet melodies elevate the track into something truly special. The epic and emotive closer Drømmer På Boks is a phenomenal finale, as it bounces between full-blooded stoner rock and understated bluesy folk with ease.
There aren’t really any stand-out tracks on the album, but that’s because every track is exceptional. Stoner and desert rock can easily fall into the trap of repeating the same ideas through each song, and as much as they might be divisive now, it was Queens Of The Stone Age who really showed the genre how to grow stylistically without losing its distinctive sound.
Malossi might not follow the same musical path as Josh Homme and co, but what they do take from them is the ability to balance their own unique, ambitious and expansive song-writing with the mesh of blues, doom, psychedelia and Americana that defines desert rock. With Blanke Barter, Malossi have made what is easily one of the most fascinating and engaging desert rock albums I’ve heard in a while, and a record which should cement their name amongst the best bands of this generation in the genre.
Scribed by: Will J