HOWLIN’ SUN – Maxime (2023)
You want groove, grit, irresistible hooks, and warm, fuzzy-sounding guitars? And you desire a fiery and inspired mixture of early Seventies hard rock, blues rock, and psychedelic rock? Then “Maxime“, the new album from HOWLIN’ SUN delivers all of that and more, and it is pretty far from being short on ideas, dynamics, or charm – that much I can guarantee you.
This band from Bergen, Norway combines all these elements naturally, and I am amazed at how perfectly it balances the new with the old. In some respects, it could have been captured on tape back in 1967 by a guy named J. Hendrix and no one would have questioned that.
Yet there is an indefinable edge to the music that sounds much more current, which I find rather interesting. Anyway, just make sure you check this retro gem out as it truly packs a punch. It is a superb collection of memorable tunes with that guitar sound straight from the amp, no effects, no tricks, just pure rock n’ roll.
The record certainly feels the part of its excellent production. Tor Erik’s voice is pleasingly imperfect and rough; Torgrim Nåmdal’s drums are warm and full in the mix; Pieter ten Napel’s bass guitar rumbles affirmatively, and Magnus Gullachsen executes his groovy leads with a high degree of prominence.
The results of these parts in conjunction is a wholesome and organic package which entirely subverts modern production techniques and its exacting precision. It distinctly evokes dusty, West coast highways and I haven’t even experienced dusty, West coast highways in real life.
Of course, the implication here is the West coast of the USA; Howlin’ Sun are indeed from a West coast but that of Norway instead. I wouldn’t have believed it but for the one sheet provided and corroboration from their label and social media, such is the American-ness of this album.
Howlin’ Sun excels in its brevity; only two tracks exceed four minutes. Every instrumental element is executed professionally, features fun rhythms or melodies individually and subsequently contributes to a whole which I’ll happily go to for a light-hearted and amusing step into the past.
The riffs, in particular, are thick and satisfying, to me invoking Steppenwolf though I don’t proclaim specialist knowledge of late ’60s rock. It’s incredibly tough to dislike a band such as Howlin’ Sun and they can be pleased with their efforts here. There’s no denying their derivativeness but it’s intentional and executed to a standard where this isn’t an offensive characteristic.
In short? ROCKS
01 – Maxime
02 – Let’s Go Steady
03 – All Night Long
04 – Jayne
05 – Be Mine
06 – Last Time
07 – Main Pretender
08 – Lost
09 – Bittersweet Morning Sun
Tor-Erik Bjelde – Vocals, Guitar
Mangus Gullachsen – Guitar
Kristoffer Støylen Refvik – Bass, Vocals
Torgrim K. Nåmdal – Drums
Sandro Stanojevic – Keyboards
Jonas Særsten – Organ
Jonas F. Hamre – Saxophone
Pieter Ten Napel – Bass
Julia Flo Galaasen – Vocals