Reviewed: April 2021
Released: 2021, Scarlet Records
Reviewer: Jack Merry
Beginning his time in the music industry as the vocalist and bass player for 90s’ stoner metal band Spiritual Beggars, Swedish musician and songwriter Christian “Spice” Sjöstrand has a fondness for 1970s’ hard rock and has incorporated elements of psychedelia and doom over his almost thirty-year career.
After his tenure with the Beggars ended in 2001, Spice went on to form Band of Spice in 2006. A new project for him to pour all his efforts on with a tight focus on fine songwriting, hard rock attitude, and a bittersweet touch of melancholy.
The new album from Band of Spice, entitled By The Corner of Tomorrow, is the first that he has recorded in standard tuning over his entire recording career, aiming for a more “resilient” sound. In the Swedish band leader’s own words: “I had Black Sabbath’s ‘Heaven and Hell’ and Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ as references for the sound of this record – filtered through my personal touch”. His main goal was to make something in line with those timeless classics: a flowing collection of songs rich in variation, vibe, and an undeniable sense of melody. Although there are some hiccups along the way, he’s certainly achieved that. As usual, the lyrics deal with the human condition and our hidden dark feelings: fear, madness, hopelessness, and the never-ending dream of escaping reality. It’s a really personal deep dive into the mind of Spice.
The opening track ‘The Fading Spot’ is a delightfully Maiden-esque romp through hard rock’s past, with a killer riff right out of the starting gate and galloping rhythm section providing the powerhouse backbeat; the bass rumbling perfectly in the mix. Spice’s throaty growl is just as raw and powerful as it ever was, and ‘Call Out Your Name’ only further emphasizes this as his voice soars atop another melodic yet hard-hitting riff and chorus line. A blistering guitar solo in the latter half of the six-minute track is jaw-dropping; both technical and soulful, which is a difficult balance to keep.
After the chaos of the first two tracks, ‘Tehom’ is a quiet interlude of picked guitars before things get turned up all the way to eleven with raging riff-rocker ‘The Sharp Edge,’ one of the many highlights on the record. It’s very reminiscent of Ronnie James Dio-era Black Sabbath, with crushing Iommi-sized riffs and musical passages that wouldn’t be out of place on The Mob Rules or Dehumanizer. The title track is a gorgeous heart-wrenching ballad built around acoustic guitars and a subdued drum pattern with a beautiful melody to boot, and the track acts as a perfect centerpiece for the album. A breather for the listeners before ‘Midnight Blood’ kicks down the door to deliver more crushing riffs and intricate lead work a’la Iron Maiden.
‘Reglutina’ may need a little time to grow on me, as it sounds like Black Album-era Metallica with a thumping muted riff throughout its length runtime, but the song doesn’t really lead to anything and I’m left disappointed. Fantastic performances and the band are clearly good at what they do, they just missed something here. ‘Cold Flame’ is more my tempo with changing riffs and passages to help keep up the variety, and phenomenal guitar work appears all over the track. Closing track ‘Rewind the Wind’ is a calming ballad to help unwind, and Spice delivers a beautifully subdued performance atop a quietly picked melody and a creeping drum beat.
By The Corner of Tomorrow is an incredible solid hard rock album that both pays tribute to Spice’s influences of old, and is another bold step forward for the Swedish singer-songwriter as he establishes Band of Spice as a force to be reckoned with once again. I’ll be keeping an eye on them from now on!