REVIEW: Siena Root – Revelation

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In general, I don’t believe in fate, nor in the popular notion that the universe is conspiring in the background in somebody’s favor just as long as they keep vibing in accordance with their star charts or something. Just recently I wrote, upon reviewing the latest effort from DEWOLFF, that it has been rather silent in the class-A vintage-sounding roots-rock of late and now, yet the Swedish blues-rock ambassadors, SIENA ROOT, are releasing their new album “Revelation” on February 24th, 2023, via Atomic Fire Records, almost as though implying that the universe took my words as a challenge. The thing is – this rootsy selection resonates strongly with the genuine air of the 1970s, in terms of songcraft and production. Call me old-fashioned as much as you like, but this sort of vintage-tinged analog aura does pack a certain appeal; it evokes feelings that very few things in this world can achieve, to be honest. While listening through the album, you are easily lured to think you’ve stumbled upon some forgotten classic from, say, early LED ZEPPELIN reinforced with Sandy Denny of FAIRPORT CONVENTION or Grace Slick of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, and when the feeling hits, you’re about to become more bewildered by the moment. Then, while the vintage blues-rock sound provides a sturdy frame of reference, SIENA ROOT does cover a bit more ground to keep things interesting – very interesting, I would say.

The album opens with a riff that reeks of vintage BLACK SABBATH along with the bluesy Hammond-driven rock acts from the 1970s – seductive and charming, no doubt, for the proud members of generation X with a fetish for all things analog. Vocalist-keyboardist Zubaida Solid does a pretty damn impressive job with her Hammond chops, as well as her hard-rockish blues vocals. Then, the song peaks at the guitar solo section when the tape delay unit kicks in – yes, that’s what I’m talking about! A pinch of bluesy psychedelia never hurt anyone. If you really must receive a full psychedelic dose of something, why not let it be this banger! Music of this type sure does have a drug-like impact on that tiny part of our brain that is still trying to function after having been bombarded with the plastic radio-pop sound of today along with the AI-generated sounds and visions from a future that sure ain’t what it used to be.

The next couple of songs gear up on the groovier side of things, layering the subtle BLACK SABBATH vibes with a good pinch of Motown. In fact, after a few spins, I feel compelled to single out the third track, “No Peace,” as one of the pinnacle cuts on the outing. The song alternates between groovy basso ostinato sections and staccato breaks that almost summon the ghost of some of those classic IRON MAIDEN tracks from the early 1980s – filtered through the prism of blues, obviously. What is there not to like?!

Yeah, sure, if the band had chosen to fill the rest of the album with bangers like these first few tracks, I would have been pleased enough. What makes this bunch stand out as a roots-rock force to be reckoned with is the way they incorporate all sorts of folksy-proggy nuances in the mix over the next couple of tracks. First, “Dusty Roads” takes a somewhat “Riders of the Storm”-like approach by rolling out a textbook example of an atmospheric and bluesy folk-prog epic with a flute solo and everything. Here and there, the song might even trigger pleasant DEEP PURPLE flashbacks, perhaps more of the “Child in Time” than ”Speed King” variety, while actually steering clear of the heavy metal realms altogether. I guess that says something…

Then, these bluesy Swedes roll up quite an ace from their sleeve: “Winter Solstice” is a mellow folk number in triple meter with walking bass and nice flute licks. If you don’t get a robust JETHRO TULL vibe from this, I guess there must be something wrong with you. So, halfway into the album, the name of the game has become clear as day – vintage it shall be. Depending on whether or not you find that sort of thing tasty, you’re either in or out of luck. For those in luck, this album is guaranteed to lift off the bulk cargo of all the dreary days in their lives for the next 48 minutes. That sounds an awful lot like the standard album length from the vinyl era, doesn’t it? Well, yeah, it does. That is another tradition the band holds dear; SIENA ROOT swear by the black groove of vinyl, as they have done from day one. Their 2004 debut was released as a double vinyl in an era when the vinyl boom was still in the distant future. Their press release actually compels, “for the best sonic experience, make sure you get the vinyl!”

Before the album brings this nostalgia trip to a close with the leading single, “Keeper of the Flame,” which is one hell of a haunting blues ballad and therefore the best candidate to do the honors, you are offered a few more heavy blues riffs, Middle Eastern vibes on “Leaving the City” and “Madhukauns,” and some more folksy sounds from yesteryear. Those acoustic Middle Eastern motifs, delivered by sitar, did strike me as a particularly nice bonus; after all, I did develop an almost unhealthy attachment to the oriental-psychedelic sound of KINGSTON WALL back in the early 1990s. My heart almost skipped a beat when the off-kilter rhythms of “Madhukauns” rolled out and I could envision myself standing in the audience when those crazy Finns blasted out “Ištwan” at the rock venue, Tavastia, in Helsinki, almost 30 years ago.

So, without further ado, take a deep breath and hear me out. If you ever feel like you’re being chased by the evil spirits of today’s music through the menacing landscape of neatly formatted radio fodder, here’s a band that will cast out those lesser devils and shows you what is what. Needless to say, I just found myself a new thing to become obsessed with for the next couple of weeks. If BLUES PILLS rub you the right way, you’re going to love this band – oh, and get the vinyl! On the same note, why not get their previous studio album, “The Secret of Our Time” (2020) as well… I’m pretty sure it simply cannot let anyone down.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Confidence & Fate
  2. Professional Procrastinator
  3. No Peace
  4. Fighting Gravity
  5. Dusty Roads
  6. Winter Solstice
  7. Dalecarlia Stroll
  8. Leaving the City
  9. Little Burden
  10. Madhukauns
  11. Keeper of the Flame

Lineup

Zubaida Solid – vocals, keyboards

Johan Borgström – guitars

Sam Riffer – bass

Love Forsberg – drums

Label

Atomic Fire

Links

Homepage

Instagram

Bandcamp