Disciples of the heavy metal code don’t just love our music, we need it: to maintain our cultural, personal and – perhaps most importantly – cosmic equilibrium. As a result, there is nothing more essential to our musical lives than bands that tap into our beloved genre’s purest essence and re-imagine that primal magic in brand new and gloriously vivid hues. Sweden’s Saturn more than fit that bill.
Having already proved their worth and potential three years ago with their stunning debut album Ascending, this young band have evolved into something truly extraordinary this time round. In stark contrast to many retro-minded records currently doing the rounds, Beyond Spectra offers much more than affectionate pastiche and Luddite petulance. Instead, this is the sound of red-blooded heavy metal with its eyes focused on the depths of outer space, as the rampaging grooves and analogue hiss of prime ‘70s proto-doom, the swaggering boogie braggadocio of UFO and the stately grandeur of Sad Wings-era Priest collide in a mesmerising shower of irresistible riffs, unearthly melodies and moments of shimmering psychedelia.
“How have we evolved since Ascending? Our guitarist Linkan cut off his dreadlocks and that generally contributed to a good vibe, ha ha!” guitarist Robin Tidebrink laughs. “More seriously, the production of Beyond Spectra is way better. It sounds fatter without loosing that vintage feeling to it. I also think that we’re starting to find our own sound.You could say that every new song that we write is more and more Saturn.I would also say that we’re more comfortable in writing new songs and we know what kind of different elements to add to make it all sound like we want it to.”
Fans of Saturn’s first album will not be freaked out by the band’s great leap forward, but Beyond Spectra is plainly an album driven by a broader vision and an enhanced desire to forge a unique path. Songs like opening intergalactic rager Orbital Command and the sumptuous interwoven dynamics and dark drama of Nighttime Badger proudly proclaim their debt to the pioneering heavy metal greats of the ‘70s but there is so much energy, verve and ingenuity on display throughout that Saturn sound much more like the future than the past. That said, Beyond Spectra is also very much an album with its mind on the modern world too.
“The lyrical content on the album tries to explore and compare events in the world today from a historical point of view,” says vocalist Oscar Pehrson. “Both from our personal perspective but also on a more global scale. The album title is a word play on trying to see the world in as many ways as possible and to be able to understand what is going on and where we are going.It is a serious topic but we’re trying to add some humour and fiction to it as well. Music and comedy have the ability to be fun and still deliver a serious message.”
As much as they exist in the present day, it hardly needs stating that Saturn are huge fans of old school, analogue tones and the ageless allure of that classic ‘70s hard rock sound. For those with a similar passion for that bygone era, Beyond Spectra offers an object lesson in conjuring ancient vibes and emboldening them with fresh perspective.
“Everything was recorded through two old mixing tables that used to belong to Swedish Radio, the government controlled public service radio, and anything that you run through those tables will sound really warm and sweet,” says Robin. “Another factor is that we didn’t add lots of effects in post-production because we wanted a clean and simple sounding recording.We didn’t do any overdubs on this album…and we didn’t on Ascending either! It’s kind of tricky, because when somebody goes off to do a solo and you only have one rhythm guitar it can sound kind of weak… but that’s part of the charm! It’s more honest in a way. I believe that’s a huge factor in how the final record sounds.”
The sound of yesterday, filtered through the limitless refractions of an unknown future but rooted firmly in the here and now, Beyond Spectra pulls off the neat and laudable trick of getting everything right and making it look easy, while also offering great substance to stir the soul and a few, jolting shots of originality and effortless cool. If you’re lacking some steel in your aural diet, look no further. This band’s fascinating voyage into virgin skies looks certain to provide all the nourishment you could ever need.
Dom Lawson, January 2017.