Pristine – Road Back to Ruin [Things You Might Have Missed 2019]

Once again, whether due to rank neglect or prior obligation, we missed Pristine’s latest slab of bar-brawling, leather-bound, bluesy hard rock goodness. Fans of this site will remember Huck N’ Roll swooning over Pristine’s Ninja, which was indeed a strong record from a Norwegian band operating way under the radar punching way above their weight class. Road Back to Ruin punches even higher, swinging and swaggering hard enough to fell Sequoias like blades of grass. With a sound so deeply rooted in blues and Southern twang that you quickly forget they aren’t American, every track feels designed to outclass the last. Until, of course, you spin the album again. And again. And again. And again. And again.

A major contributing factor of Pristine’s success with Road Back to Ruin manifests in Heidi Solheim’s bourbon-barrel-aged voice. Smooth, but not without a venomous bite, Solheim is the soul of the album, imbuing everything from the title track to the rollicking “Pioneer” to the nightclub ballad “Cause and Effect” with the same personality and heart as only the very best vocalists possess. The band is fully aware of this, as Espen Jakobsen and Gustav Eidsvik clearly demonstrate with their immaculate riffing and counterpoint, elevating every hook and every lead to its highest potential (“Bluebird” and “Sinnerman”). Drummer Ottar Tøllefsen’s rhythmic systems similarly support the band, providing the right beat at the right time to engage any listener with ample enthusiasm (“Landslide”).

Beyond the tight performances is unimpeachable songwriting. “Aurora Skies” serves as one of the most beautiful songs my eardrums witnessed this year, bringing out a more sensitive and intimate side to Pristine I only glimpsed on past efforts. It injects itself at the perfect juncture to prevent the album from feeling like a one-trick pony, and simultaneously bookmarks a subtle stylistic shift from saloon singles to road-tripping rippers (“The Sober”). From there we encounter the disarming “Cause and Effect,” which sets up the closing one-two for the ultimate knockout.

Point is, if you want an album that feels like a complete story, it’s difficult to make a stronger argument than Road Back to RuinPristine finds themselves at the top of their game five albums in, which is more than most groups can boast. And yet, it feels like the band is just getting started. The fact that the rest of you people haven’t hyped this album hardly at all in the past seven months since release is highly concerning. The Hucked One and I expect that you rectify this at once. Get on board this train or get the fvck out of the Hall.

Tracks to Check Out: “Bluebird,” “Aurora Skies,” “Pioneer,” “Cause and Effect”

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