One of my lockdown ‘projects’ was to to watch the twenty three ‘Infinity War’ films set within the Marvel Comic Universe (MCU). For the less geeky amongst you these include the Iron Man, Avengers, Thor and Spiderman films; each of which can stand alone, or forms part of a wider story arc. So, while I had seen a number of the films before, I had never really fully appreciated their individual context within the ’universe’ developed in and around them… watching them in order proved far more interesting and rewarding overall.
Why, I hear you ask, am I going on about Marvel films? Am I going to talk about the Fanatism Four? Well, no, the Fantastic Four are a different part of the Marvel franchise (sorry further geek alert!)… and, anyway, there are five of them: Tomas Bergstrand (guitar & vocals), Peter Erikson (synths), Gustav Nygren (guitar, sax & vocals), Mikael Tuominen (bass & vocals) and Jonas Yrlid (drums). If some of these names sound familiar that is because they are part of the same collective as the likes of Kungens Män, Automatism and Eye Make The Horizon… to name but three. Each of these ’bands’ has a different and often shared membership, while each has its own sonic imprimatur. Collectively, however, they give you a more complete idea about the inspirations and influences of the different group members.
So, like the MCU, the bands (and there are a number of solo albums by members of the collective out there too (here and here)) individually stand on their own merit… but it is fascinating to look at them collectively. I like this because it seems to me that musicians are too often held down by the weight of their audiences’ expectations to the extent that we do not allow them to play outside their genre… or at least our expectations of them (the recent issue of Classic FM not allowing Nigel Kennedy to play Hendrix being an good example).
So while on one level you would not think that Kungens Män and Fanatism share three members in a blind listening test… on another it is most welcome because it allows us to see different sides of those involved and, certainly for me, see that our shared love of music stretches quite away along the same spectrum.
According to the band themselves: “You will meet Fanatism somewhere on the crossroads between Stooges Street, Can Road, Sabbath Blvd and Morricone Avenue. You are in classic rock territory with a psychedelic twist.” These are definitely the sorts of thoroughfares that I like to wander along, and certainly such a statement whets the appetite for what is to come.
The album kicks off with the title track… quite a slow burner which, considering it is under two minutes long, is quite a feat. It reminded me, to some extent, of Hey Colossus… I imagine that they very much share influences here. In some ways the track never really gets going… but it does set the the scene, and certainly when ’Power’ kicks in you find that you have already bought in. A number that is very much in the Swedish leftfield tradition, used almost as a hallmark before going off on a number of, well, power trips… the band reference Rainbow when talking about it… this writer approves… despite being fully beholden to (post-)punk at the time my most played album of 1981/2 was ’The Best of Rainbow’… I have to say that (like most of this album) it’s a proper grower with each play adding a layer of understanding… I love the delivery of the lyric and the aforementioned Swedish slant… and I’m sure Richie Blackmore would like that guitar work.
‘Wooden Shoes’ is not a particularly complicated track, and yet it really does grab you over time… there are classic rock and roll references here, and some frankly crazy guitars going on (the interplay of the two guitars is something that is really beginning to grab me)… but although it’s not a reference the band make here, this number really takes me down Bowie Broadway… there something about the vocal and arrangement… my influences coming to bear no doubt.
At this point Fanatism slow it down… with the guitar you are all of a sudden you are in the desert with ’Your Golden Life’… except with a glockenspiel in tow. It is a very steady and measured number which has more to it than initially meets the eye. Perhaps it’s easier to be dragged under by a faster current… so the perambulations of it are not immediately evident. Fortunately, at nearly seven minutes, you are given time to work yourself into its labyrinthine structure… and with that achieved you are rewarded with some of the more reflective moments of what is shaping up to be a wonderfully eclectic set.
There is something of the seventies about ’The Great Hunger’, whether it’s the bands’ thoughts on the Bowie guitar in the body of the track, or what reminds me of the Eno/ Roxy synths that a number of groups picked up and ran with in the later part of the decade… then there are the two guitar solos towards the end which take it off to several different dimensions… this is the sort of track that you can just float away to… just jump on the comet mentioned here and escape this cruel world.
Next comes ‘Verkligheten’, which I am very honoured to Premiere here. I have to say that at first I wondered why this was the track the band wanted to release first, but after a couple of listens I think I got it. I like the relative simplicity and the way it seems to be built around the bassline… it is very atmospheric, seemingly pulling you into a dark netherworld… then, about half way through, the sax kicks in and that netherworld suddenly gets interesting as the rest of the musicians pile in as a response to this siren call. After that you’re hooked… hooked for this track and, well, hooked for the album.
Having bought in you are rewarded with ’Machete’. It opens up as a blues rock number and pretty much takes you along that road to the end, with a number of diversions… especially during the sung verses… another route along the cooks tour of the bands’ influences (ZZ Top and Fleetwood Mac are understandably mentioned here).
‘Perfection’ is a difficult song to place for me… there are some Beatles nods, but also some shoegaze leanings… especially during the vocals. The solid crisp guitar, a hallmark throughout this album, gives the quite tender melody some reinforcement… I’ve a feeling that this one is going to crystallise in my mind when I’ve had the chance to hear it more…
And so to the final number here, ‘Jet Lag’. The overall feeling here is being told a story on a dark night before the guitar cuts in and you find yourself looking up at the shooting stars… before the story once more continues. There’s a quirkiness here which I find endearing… and leaves me, at the end of the album, feeling as if I have witnessed another episode in the story of these musicians, yet am no where near the end of the arc.
The previous holder of a job I once had, he had been there ten years, described it as being like arriving at a party late and leaving early… and to a certain extent this is how I feel listening to this album… it makes me want to delve back into the music that I am reminded of, and also whets my appetite for what comes next. It is a set that brings a lot together but then also sets up future narratives. This, of course, is how music is… but not all music reminds us of this… after having absorbed what is on offer here I feel that my own narrative in my own sonic universe has inched forward once more.
‘Inverted Evolution’ is being released on vinyl by Drone Rock Records and Centripedal Force and will be available for pre-order from around the end of October 2021. In addition the band’s debut album ‘The Future Past’ is being reissued on vinyl at the same time.
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