We first heard about the name JO BELOW when they released the EP “By the Rules“ last year. Having been pleased by their enjoyable alternative hard rock style, we were naturally drawn to their 2021 follow-up EP, “No Control,” which is set for release on April 16th, 2021, via Inverse Records.
The album opens with “Ms. Death” and my first impression was almost immediately very positive – vocalist Johanna Kari proves to have a very nice, strong voice and the song has a great hard rock groove to it. However, the speed seems to lose pace a bit when it hits the chorus, which feels slightly awkward and doesn’t work in a good dynamic flow, as usually songs work best when they build up to a hard-hitting chorus, while this is more mellow. This means that right when the song should be hitting the listener at its strongest, it slows down, instead creating something that is certainly different, but at least to me personally, is a bit jarring because the chorus feels dull by comparison. The song requires a few listens to see if it will bother you or not.
“Where Are You Now?” has an almost country-rock flavor to it thanks to the acoustic guitar sound. Kari is forefronted as one of the strongest elements in the music, with a simpler rhythm section than you’ll find in heavier bands, but JO BELOW‘s aim is not to blast your brains out, but let you rock and relax. The laid-back guitar solo is evidence of their willingness to show off some skill, but not to overdo it or outshine the song as a whole. There’s a rather “Shine” by MR. BIG -vibe to this song, if I were to compare it to something else.
“Another Atmosphere” starts out with drums, followed shortly by a build-up of guitar lines before Kari comes in. This is another rockin’ mid-tempo song that could have perhaps a little more exploration in the vocal melodies, but is otherwise a pretty straightforward, pleasant hard rock song. “I Confess” follows in a similar manner, showing a few different effects done by Kari and a strong rhythm section to carry the vocals and guitars. The EP then wraps up with the title track, largely driven by acoustic guitars and Kari‘s vocal, making a strong ending to the 5-song collection. “No Control” is probably the biggest highlight from the EP, standing out the most from the others with its lovely strummed acoustic guitar into, leading into what is a fairly emotional ballad.
“No Control” was a surprising and pleasant follow-up to JO BELOW‘s debut EP from 2020, showing a very solid foundation of skill from which the band will surely be able to build a strong debut album upon. If I have any requests, it’s to make sure they have a little fun and make sure the songs have a little extra flare to them – oversimplicity could be this band’s downfall, leading to potential samey-ness of songs. On an EP it’s okay because there are a limited number of songs, so if the first and last songs are the biggest stand-outs, that’s okay, but on an album there shouldn’t be too much stasis. As long as they make sure to keep changing it up a little, I can guarantee that whenever their debut is released, it’s going to be one to keep an eye out for!
- Ms. Death
- Where Are You Now?
- Another Dimension
- I Confess
- No Control
Johanna Kari – vocals
Roni Seppänen – guitar
Jonne Lindqvist – bass
Olli Vartiainen – drums