Hailing from Trondheim, Norway, the hard-hitting power trio of BOKASSA have made a bit of a name for themselves after METALLICA‘s drum maestro, Lars Ulrich, crowned them his “new favorite band,” even inviting these Norwegians on their “Worldwired Tour” in the aftermath of BOKASSA‘s 2017 debut “Divide & Conquer.” Whatever one may think of METALLICA‘s recent endeavors, it cannot be denied that the band does have an almost innate knack for writing killer songs now and then. Maybe these Nordic stoner-punks kept watching and taking notes, since they released their critically acclaimed sophomore full-length, “Crimson Riders,” during the tour in 2019. Now they are back for more, ready to set the world ablaze with their upcoming offering, “Molotov Rocktail,” due out on September 3rd, 2021, via Napalm Records. The new album is an endearingly old-fashioned, cohesive tightrope act of punk singalongs and highly contagious stoner grooves. Even after the first few spins, it is easy to see why thrash legends such as Ulrich have cultivated a fondness for the band. It feels underground, edgy, and dangerous in just the right amounts. BOKASSA represents that particular type of music that METALLICA paid homage to with their 1987 EP, “Garage Days Re-Revisited,” containing only covers of the late-1970s and early-1980s heavy metal and punk rock. Of course, these Norwegians have spiked their gritty chansons with a modern twist, thereby joining the ranks of acts such as THE BRONX, RED FANG, BILLY TALENT, and even QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE and THERAPY?.
The album kicks off with a brief instrumental intro titled “Freelude.” It is a bit of a decoy of a track: nothing in it gives away what is to come. It could just as easily be placed on a late-1980s thrash metal album or some leftfield black-metal offering of late. When the first proper song, “So Long Idiots!,” starts slapping you might even be startled a little, “Oh, this is punk rock music?” You won’t mind, though. BOKASSA has a way of writing diabolically catchy choruses and the first song offers one of the stickiest earworms on the album in this respect. The melodic chorus, wah-wah blurts, and raspy vocals almost punch a hole in the space-time continuum and take your mind back to 1994.
Just recently, upon reviewing the new studio album of the Los Angeles -based punks, THE BRONX, I found out that mariachi-styled horn-tooting goes amazingly well with the punk rock aesthetic. The BOKASSA crew seems to have made the same realization. “Hereticules” injects a mariachi-tinted horn section into a singalong punk chorus – and it works like magic. The raw energy conveyed by the music kind of sadly reminds you that the mosh-pits that once looked like combat zones are now almost completely devoid of life. This is exactly the kind of music that is best served live. Then again, nothing can really stop you from inviting a few friends over for a listening marathon and going piggyback riding around the living room.
Punk does not fully describe all of what goes under the hood of the album. Take “Code Red,” for example. It is a monolith of bulky stoner riffs that would make even KYUSS blush. Then, the title track punctuates its singalong punk chorus with the ultimate instrument of terror – cowbell – maybe not as prominently as the BLUE ÖYSTER CULT classic but to a resonant effect all the same. Finally, the album closes with the track “Immortal Space Pirate 3 Too Old For This Sith,” the intro of which could easily have been lifted straight off any BEHEMOTH album. By being a 7-minute epic infested with crushing stoner riffs, it is by far the most befitting way to bring the album to a close.
While blending sludgy stoner riffs with cheerful singalong-punk and whatnot, there is a distinct consistency to BOKASSA‘s sonic language. It is raw but rarely intimidating, rather beckoning, drawing on the same “just one more song” impulse that designer drug developers have learned to target with meticulous precision. The new studio outing by this Trondheim powerhouse misses no chance to entrance the listener with every second of its runtime. If you don’t mind me saying so, ”Molotov Rocktail” is catchy like one of those sexually transmitted diseases but listening to it won’t necessitate a cure of antibiotics. Stay safe and listen to punk.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- So Long Idiots!
- Pitchforks R Us
- Low (And Behold)
- Molotov Rocktail
- Burn It All (P.T.S.D.E.A.D)
- Careless (In The Age Of Altruism)
- Code Red
- Immortal Space Pirate 3 Too Old For This Sith
Jørn Kaarstad – Lead vocals, guitar
Bård Linga – Bass, vocals
Olav Dowkes – Drums, vocals