Ex-Beastmilk/Grave Pleasures guitarist Linnéa Olsson originally started Maggot Heart with two ex-members of (her then touring buddies) In Solitude (drummer Uno Bruniusson and bassist Gottfrid Åhman), and now seven years on from her/their debut ‘City Girls’ EP they find themselves within the bosom of Svart Records eclectic roster of bands.
‘Hunger’, is the name of their third album to date, and I’m not exactly sure how I’ve missed out on them until now, but better late than never eh? That’s because ‘Hunger’ is not only one of the most exciting records I’ve heard this year, but it also means I’ve not got their two previous records (‘Dusk to Dusk’ and ‘Mercy Machine’) to discover too. Now, that’s a result in my book!
In a year of strong releases (especially in the world of goth tinged music), declaring that ‘Hunger’ is one of the most exciting records I’ve heard to date is either a pretty bold, or dumb, statement to make, but after repeated listens there is always something new that grabs my attention and hooks me back in, and not unlike her old Sonic Ritual band mate (and now label buddy) Henrik Palm’s solo releases for Svart there is no single genre of music that you can pin Maggot Heart’s sound on, which in a world jam packed full of bands called Black Whisk(e)y Rivers or whatever, is what makes the record’s eight tracks so God damn exhilarating.
It’s the thunderous bass of Olivia Airey (who joined the band pre ‘Mercy Machine’) that propels the record into the stratosphere as Olsson rages “you are what you eat” and opener ‘Scandinavian Hunger’ flies off on some kind of off-kilter Voivod meets solo Henrik Palm three-minute musical maelstrom.
By contrast ‘Nil By Mouth’, whilst retaining that early days Ghost vibe that Palm brought to their music also has a poke in the eye simplicity about it. This is exceptional stuff and I’m amazed this wasn’t released as the album’s lead single instead of the far more “challenging” ‘Looking Back At You’, but then that’s the very essence of Maggot Heart I guess, nothing about this record is what you would expect, and if you want further proof of this just give the horn drenched ‘LBD’ a listen. It gives me goosebumps every time I hear that intro and when the brass section crops up again towards the end of the tune it’s almost like Nile Rodgers has been given a call to work his remix magic on this six minute plus giant.
That credit though must be afforded to Ben Greenberg and in particular the space his mix affords the musicians during tracks like ‘Archer’(something akin to PJ Harvey around the time of ‘To Bring You My Love’) and then also capturing the unyielding nature of the aforementioned ‘Looking Back At You’ whilst somehow still managing to retain a perfect balance across the record’s thirty seven plus runtime. This really is something that deserves a special mention.
Of the tunes themselves, it’s impossible for me to single out a favourite, but the one that instantly made me smile from ear to ear is ‘This Shadow’, a tune that has that distinctive Beastmilk guitar chime all over it and it could very easily sit alongside any of the tracks from that band’s classic ‘Climax’ record.
Hunger’s final duo of tunes ‘Concrete Soup’ and ‘Parasite’ pretty much square the creative circle on a record chock full of experimentation as Olsson, Bruniusson and Airey lock into some kind of gothic space rock groove that could easily be termed “progressive” (ahem), but here the trio never once lose the focus of their song. So, Maggot Heart are progressive without ever being prog if that’s at all possible?
Whatever your own take on ‘Hunger’ will be there is no arguing that this is indeed a unique record in an age when they are few and far between. It’s one that (as I said at the top of this review) defies genre pigeonholing and it is as fearless a record as you’ll hear anywhere in 2023.
If RPM actually scored records, ‘Hunger’ would be a ten out of ten without question.
‘Hunger’ is released via Svart Records on 29th September and is available to pre-order via Bandcamp HERE (you can also stream three songs here if you want to listen to the album) and from Svart Records HERE.
Author: Johnny Hayward