There are many threats facing our world today. Some are man-made (climate change, for example), while other dangers manifest as actual men and women. But is there any threat less talked about than that facing Sweden today? The time vortex seemingly whirling across that Scandinavian country, spitting out 70s alt-rock bands left, right and center? From Witchcraft, Horisont, and Graveyard to my subject today, Lykantropi, and, let’s be honest, recent Opeth too, there is a significant number of them around. This is not a negative per se, as much of the bluesy rock these groups turn out is enjoyable, but should it concern us? I mean, how much 70s rock can the present actually endure? Could it be Lykantropi‘s sophomore effort, Spirituosa, that finally tips all of Sweden back into the past?
Possibly, quite frankly. Like their 2017 self-titled debut, Spirituosa is pure nostalgia, from the music itself to the lyrical subject matter. From the first chord of opener “Wild Flowers,” there is no doubt what these Swedes are about. And to be fair, what Lykantropi do, they do very well. We’re talking 70s bluesy rock, with melodic leads and groovy basslines, layered harmonies including flutes—and why the devil not?—all providing a platform for clean English and Swedish vocals. As to the subject matter, Spirituosa deal in whimsy, in old folk and fairy tales. I think it’s worth being quite clear upfront that there is very little that is metal, or let alone angry, about this record. This is a band that cites the “sweet harmonies” of The Mamas & The Papas, as one of their influences. I don’t personally see this as a negative (and I have been known to do a very poor version of “California Dreamin'” at karaoke) but it’s important that everyone is on the same page here.
And I have to say, it’s a page I increasingly liked. On my first listen—both to Sprituosa and its slightly rougher-edged predecessor—I found myself nodding along to the bass line and pricking my ears up to occasional harmonies on the vocals, particularly the female vocals (which I’m reasonably sure are delivered by the brilliantly named My Shaolin, though credits on the album are hard to come by) but not much more. Put on the spot, I would likely have paused, nodded sagely and then said, “yeah, it was fine.” Much like Coven‘s Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, which I suspect members of Lykantropi know well, I found that on further spins, significant parts of the album had actually wormed their way into my brain. Indeed, Spirituosa is more layered than I appreciated on my first listen. The multiple vocals (three, I believe, in band leader Martin Östlund, his fellow guitarist Pär Nordwall and the aforementioned My), coupled with psychedelic guitars and the flautist, all work surprisingly well. There is also structure to the album that carries you along, while highlighting certain parts, notably the starkly delicate “Songbird” and the groove-laden “Wild Flowers” and “Vestigia.”
In that sense, it reminds me of Graveyard‘s outstanding Hisingen Blues. There are, in fact, a number of parallels between the two, and not just that they are both deceptively accomplished nine-track records, clocking in around the 40-minute mark, released by 70s worshipping Swedes. Well, actually no, that probably is about it but that’s quite a lot. Where Lykantropi fall short, compared to Graveyard at least, is relative lack of that undefinable “edge.” Somehow, for all its pros, Spirituosa is ultimately forgettable. You can’t fault the production for this—the guitar sound is crystal clear and the bass is full in the mix, without drowning out more delicate elements like the flute.
I am of two minds as to how to score this album. On the one hand, I enjoyed Spirituosa for what it is, a nicely executed little nugget of 70s rock nostalgia. Whilst simple in one sense, I found it offered more than is at first evident, spotting a little something new on each listen. On the other hand, while each spin revealed that I appreciate more of this record than I think I did, there’s something about Lykantropi that doesn’t stay with me. It lacks impact and quickly fades from memory. Part of me feels I’m being harsh in awarding the score I have but I can’t justify a higher one for a record that I’m unlikely to return to because it won’t occur to me to do so.