(All Album Reviews by Epilepticgibbon)
Paatos are a Stockholm-based five-piece prog rock band, of sorts. I say ‘of sorts’ because Paatos are not your typical prog rock group, in fact they’re not even your typical Swedish prog rock group.
Sweden has produced a number of high quality and richly acclaimed prog rock bands in recent years (including Landberk, Anekdoten, and Morte Macabre) and many of those bands have adopted a distinctive sound: very dark and sombre atmospherics with lots
of mellotrons. Paatos’ sound is clearly influenced to some extent by that ‘Swedish prog scene’ (not surprising given that two of the founding members of Paatos were also important members of Landberk – Stefan Dimle (bass and double bass) and Reine Fiske (electric and acoustic guitars), though Fiske has since been replaced by Peter Nylander) but the band themselves describe their music as ‘melancholic post-rock’. What exactly they mean by that is open to interpretation, but it does seem to fit their sound rather well. The melancholic part is very appropriate, plus they mix the aforementioned sounds of the 1990s ‘Swedish prog scene’ with more modern elements, such as dub and trip-hop (Portishead spring to mind in particular on this current album).
Before I write anything else I just have to state that despite never having heard anything by Paatos prior to 2004 I am now besotted with their sound. The first Paatos album, Timeloss, from 2002, is pretty much excellent, with four good but fairly predictable (style-wise) tracks, and one genius curve-ball called “Quits”, a track that runs for 12 minutes and visits both drum ‘n’ bass and King Crimson in the process. It’s “Quits” that raises Timeloss from just being another piece of dark, technically excellent Swedish prog, to something rather special. And thankfully this second album suggests that Timeloss (and more specifically, “Quits”) was no one-off.
One of the key elements to the success of both albums is lead singer Petronella Nettermalm, whose vocals make her sound like a cross between Björk and Nina Persson of the Cardigans, and who also plays the cello on this album. Too many otherwise brilliant Prog groups lack a genuinely classy vocalist but Paatos have really hit the jackpot with Nettermalm. Some may find her vocals to be a bit too fragile in places but I think she can pack a vocal punch whenever she needs to and the near-whispering style of some tracks just adds to the ethereal nature of much of the album.
Kallocain proves to be an excellent follow-up to Timeloss and it may actually be the better album of the two overall. Some fans of Timeloss may be disappointed because Kallocain is perhaps a less proggy and more commercial album overall, with at least a couple of the tracks (“Happiness” and “Look At Us”) sounding like they could possibly even make it onto the radio, so good are their melodies. But don’t confuse melody and commerciality with cashing in – Paatos have as many ideas and as much technical prowess as many current prog acts but in addition they are capable of writing great songs with a broad appeal.
Across the album Paatos play within rather different musical worlds – opener “Gasoline” is uncharacteristic for the album as it’s a thumping rocker which starts with a Gypsy violin before giving way to a powerful bass-line and then continuing to move through territories both dark and heavy, “Reality” could easily be mistaken for a track from Portishead”s first album “Dummy”, and both “Stream” and “Won’t Be Coming Back” are full of moments that will leave Prog fans wetting themselves with excitement.
I’d strongly recommend you buy both of the first two Paatos albums soon because they really are very good indeed. I’ve yet to hear the latest (third) studio album yet, though many reviews suggest it’s something of a disappointment. It may be that the band peaked with the first two albums, which would be a shame, but the quality of those albums remains undiminished. Fans of Björk, Portishead and the darker side of the Cardigans will love this band just as much as all the prog heads out there and it”s not often that I can say something like that with any confidence!
Best tracks: “Gasoline”, “Happiness”, “Look At Us”, “Reality”, “Stream”, “Won”t Be Coming Back”.