(All Album Reviews by Reginod)
I've had the nastiest writer's block over the last month or so, trying to come up with something meagerly coherent to say about Trettioåriga Kriget's third album Hej på er!On the surface it seems pretty simple: Hej på er! represented a step in a more streamlined direction (like so many of the luminaries that survived the "Golden Age Of Progressive Rock"), with shorter songs and less involved arrangements. Uh-oh, that should send up a red flag, right? No 17-minute epics? Longest song is only five and half minutes? Where are the obligatory instrumental soliloquies? They must have been turning pop on us! For shame!
Given, Hej på er! showed that Trettioåriga Kriget were paying attention to the trends of the time. True, it isn't the dramatically satisfying piece de resistance that its predecessor Krigssång was. And certainly it was only the first step in the direction of the punkish New Wave that was becoming entrenched at the end of the 1970's; by most accounts the band's next album MOT ALLA ODDS completed the transition.
But change is necessary, and Hej på er! (hello everybody!) is full of good tunes that stand up nicely, more than a quarter-century after they were committed to tape. Trettioåriga Kriget's hard-edged and somewhat raw, guitar-focused sound was still intact, as were the individual talents that gave the band its unique flavor. Principle songwriter Stefan Fredin's in-your-face bass steered the band, while drummer Dag Lundquist provided propulsion. Guitarist Christer Åkerberg's percussive touch on the fret board complemented his tone, clear and shimmering but with just the right blend of grit and aggression. Of course such a powerful and often heavy band needed a strong and distinctive vocalist, and Robert Zima fit the bill perfectly; on Hej på er! his voice was robust, without the Ian-Gillan-meets-Roy-Estrada histrionics which had been evident on some of the band's earlier recordings. To color and complement the general guitar-dominated gravitas, Mats Lindberg provided saxophone and keyboards, perhaps coming to the fore a bit more than had been the norm on either of the band's first two albums.
The title cut is first on the playlist and is also perhaps the album's most "accessible" tune. In his rather extensive liner notes on the MNW re-mastered CD reissue (MNWCD 3004), lyricist and longtime Trettioåriga Kriget associate Olle Thörnvall claims that it came closer to actually reaching Sweden's Top Ten than any other of the band's material. It is followed by "Nattem Som Alltid," a song amply laden with guitar riffage from both acoustic and electric instruments, as well as some timely accents from slide guitar.
"Stan Tur Och Retur" allows Lindberg's keyboards to take a more active role amidst the ocean of guitars. He also shows his versatility by adding sax to the instrumental "Moln På Marken," while Åkerberg plays a bluesy solo.
Taking a few more compositional twists than the average punk or new wave fare of the period, the heavy "Dagspress" is one of the album's more frenetic and faster paced tunes, with an imposing drum and percussion break in the middle.
Also included as an extra live cut on the re-mastered CD of Krigssång, "En Kväll Hos X" is undoubtedly a highlight of this album, and probably one of Trettioåriga Kriget's more memorable pieces, with Åkerberg's guitar and Lindberg's sax providing two completely different moods within the same piece. Åkerberg solos mightily at the end, but perhaps the effect is more dramatic on the live version.
"Ser Du Mej" and "En Dag Om Nattem" are two more riff-heavy tunes, with Lindberg adding some rolling keyboard melodies to the former. The music to the latter was written by Lundquist, and is the album's only cut not to bear Fredin's compositional stamp.
The closing instrumental "Andra Sidan" is five and a half minutes of pure bliss. As Fredin and Lundquist gradually increase the intensity, Åkerberg's ringing guitar and Lindberg's keys conjoin to frame the piece. Lindberg also adds a rare but note-perfect synth solo.
Three cuts from 1979's Mot Alla Odds, together with the single "Rockgift" are added to the re-mastered version of Hej på er!These particular tunes are shorter and more punkish, but altogether they demonstrate that the band could work well in that format. Apparently Mot Alla Odds did not sell as well as the band hoped, and they did only one more album, simply entitled Kriget, before disbanding. Fortunately they reformed to play some reunion gigs in the 1990's, and in 2003 they put it all together again to record Elden Av År.
I could be completely wrong, but upon hearing Trettioåriga Kriget I get the feeling that they were "letting the music flow" and not trying too hard to pigeonhole themselves. All too often I hear bands that seem to put aspiration ahead of inspiration in the quest to conform to some kind of Progressive Rock "ethic." What about just writing and playing some good music? The question that seems to be so tiresomely asked is, "Is it prog?" I say to hell with the litmus tests. The only question that should matter is, "Is it good?" In the case of Hej på er! my answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it is infectiously clever and inventive, it certainly isn't a prog opus. The beauty of it is that it doesn't need to be.