Ponamero Sundown – Rodeo Electrica

This is not a pure stoner rock record, although it’s deeply rooted in the genre. This record is what it would sound like when Alice in Chains play stoner rock.

I don’t know if it’s the coincidence or what, but in such a short time I’ve reviewed two albums that mix stoner rock and grunge. You could read about Russian band Sex Type Thing and their record Checked Up By Time, but here we are with another “similar” album. The Swedish rockers Ponamero Sundown released their second bit of experimentation on Transubstans Records this year, an album which I have listened to every day for the last last ten days or so. It has become a sort of cliché to say “this album enters the competition for the best album of the year”. Well, it’s the case with this album. As 2011 opened pretty good and seems to have the potential to be one of the best years for me in the past few years when it comes to music, that says a lot about Rodeo Electrica.

I have to admit that I was a bit surprised when I learned that the drummer of Ponamero Sundown is a former drummer of black metal band Dark Funeral by the name of Peter Eklund. But this surprise is not equal to the amazement Rodeo Electrica carries with its music. There’s absolutely no elements lacking on the album, and trying to find any complaints would be like trying to find a needle in the hayrick. It might be my personal preferences speaking for me, but this band is seriously underrated. A grooviness that flows through every song, together with its melodiousness side, reached (mostly) through the vocals of Nicke Engwall, reshapes the stoner-grunge combination with the gurus of 70′s heavy guitar sound. The melody, riffs, roughness, acoustics, dirtiness, strong and harshy vocals are just some of the elements that constitute Rodeo Electrica. Speaking of Engwall’s vocals, the man absolutely delivers outstanding work on the recording. As my personal feeling on this recording is described as AIC in stoner rock mode, then it wouldn’t be necessary to say that Engwall is the reincarnation of Layne Staley.

Comparing this album with its predecessor and debut Stonerized, there is an evident stylistic turnout towards more polished stoner rock with the already mentioned grunge bits. With Rodeo Electrica, the guys entered a mode of experimentation without any pressure and the result are 13 cuts, totalling something more than 53 minutes. The songs are fatigue-less, quietly easy and memorable, floating from tune to tune without any pressure. The opening Evil Wand is probably the most straightforward stoner rock track off the album, there are surely such “clean” moments, but most of them are wrapped up by additional fuzz’n'frenzy-ness. The shorty Highway Messiah is an aggressive connection to Sorrows, which is personally the first favorite. This particular track comes up as a sort of a preacher/mantra, with Engwall’s vocals pushed in the first plan, followed by psychedelically oriented instrumentation reached by the echoed guitar-sound. The Dice, structurally is a twin to Evil Wand accompanied with more hard rocking fuzz. For the first time, the band employs acoustic guitar, which is the actual highlight of this specific tune. There is a short passage built up of kind of telephone voice of Engwall which once again puts the things straight to already established rocking mode.

The starting 15 seconds of 1025 appears to be the fastest moment of the record, enriched by Eklund’s blastbeats. For a moment, I wished this blastbeating cannonade keeps on, but the band gets slower in the tempo, but still keeping the same energy and aggressiveness, cementing this track as my second favorite. Rodeo Electrica Part I is an instrumental short interlude and serves as a good bridge between the album’s chapters. Shot for Glory steps further to a heavier sound, leaving the limitations of its direction unclear. Fifty-fifty is the situation faced on Sinners Breed, giving fifty percent of its structure to riff-rock, and the rest to a melodic pace.

The acoustics in Not the Time announce the final chapter of the album. This piece is entirely instrumental and unplugged and I love how it sounds. An acoustic guitar is mightier than a gun, if it’s used properly. Heading down to The Ghost which mixes riffwork, acoustic melodiousness and Engwall’s up-to-now-cognizable vocals, makes this cut a good example of how a song should sound if you wish to make a rocking track, but in the same time to keep its balladous atmosphere. Goddess of the Sun is a great showcase for nodding, headbanging, air-drumming, air-bassing. I didn’t forget air guitarists, they will have a moment for expressing their skills too. I tried to sing along with Engwall, but it didn’t turn as a well-thought decision.

Fathomless Nothingness shows the full power of Engwall’s vocal capabilities, the man does not stop to impress. Down to its core, this track is a ballad with strong and energy-filled vocals and a nicely performed clean guitar solo. The closing piece, Rodeo Electrica Part II, opens with droning bass lines (I think it’s a bass which makes these drones) and develops to some stoner-driven fuzzwork. In comparison to the first part, this track is not instrumental. Engwall adds the cracks of his magic, making this piece the mostly twisted. People say, the best is saved for last. I guess we have a such situation here.

Rodeo Electrica is an album which keeps its quality consistent throughout. For me, this album is certainly one of the better records of the first four months of 2011 and will enter the competition for the best albums of the year. As for Ponamero Sundown, with this album they show maturity and ability to shake the bones of the stoner rock genre.

Tracklist:

01. Evil Wand

02. Highway Messiah

03. Sorrows

04. The Dice

05. 1025

06. Rodeo Eléctrica part I

07. Shot for Glory

08. Sinners Breed

09. Not the Time

10. The Ghost

11. Goddess of the Sun

12. Fathomless Nothingness

13. Rodeo Eléctrica part II

Line-up:

* Niclas Engwall – Vocals

* Peter Eklund – Drums & percussion

* Anders Martinsgård – Electric & acoustic guitars

* Oliver Gille Vowden – Bass & 12-string guitar

Links:

www.ponamerosundown.com

www.myspace.com/ponamerosundown

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.
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