“Fuck Genres” proclaims Swedish multi-instrumentalist Henrik Palm in the press blurb that accompanies his second solo album ‘Poverty Metal’. Reflecting on this statement whilst also chuckling at the fact that the album title was derived from a term he’d heard being used to describe the type of cheesy bargain bin 80s metal that labels like Mausoleum used to release was enough to get me to give this eight tracker a cautionary listen, and by Hades am I glad I did.
I have to admit I had no idea that Henrik had once been a member of (the rather splendid) In Solitude or that he was once a Nameless Ghoul in Ghost but one listen to ‘Bully’ the opening track on ‘Poverty Metal’ (and without knowing Palm’s past) you’d perhaps be forgiven for thinking he was lifting influences from both of these bands with the post-punk/gothic background of In Solitude’s superb ‘Sister’ album very much present and the track also topped off with the dramatic melodic pomp and ceremony of Ghost. In many ways it has the same immediate appeal to me as Zeal & Ardor’ ‘Stranger Fruit’ did a couple of years back and that’s probably why I’ve played little else other than ‘Poverty Metal’ since I first discovered it just a day or so ago.
‘Sugar’ is up next and it’s a tune that initially brings to mind noughties UK progressive alt rockers Minuteman before it dissolves into the larger-than-life rock sound that characterised the early major label days of Ghost. ‘Concrete Antichrist’ continues the underlying theme of the opening trio of tunes, twisting and turning into your psyche, heavy on melody whilst never being what you might call an “easy listen.” At 3 minutes and 36 seconds its actually ready made to be a single but given the fragmentated state of conventional rock radio right now it’ll sadly never be aired on anything other than specialist stations.
A track that very much could breakthrough into the mainstream though is ‘Given Demon’, released as a video in the run up to the release of ‘Poverty Metal’ many existing fans of Palm’s work were quick to point out this track has more than a hint of QOTSA about it, but then again didn’t QOTSA have more than a hint of Masters Of Reality about them, and Masters Of Reality just a hint of The Doors? I hope you catch my drift? Whatever the influences ‘Given Demon’ is a wonderful slab of psych-pop especially the dreamy end sequence which actually sounds like it could have been written by Andy Partridge during XTC’s studio only days.
Being something of a huge fanboy of Twisted ‘fucking’ Sister, Palm’s cover of ‘Destroyer’ (originally from the ‘Under The Blade’ album) which crops up just after the record’s halfway mark is not only something of a surprise but also a huge revelation, slowed down to sludge like speed but with a vocal that actually seems to float over the menacing bass throb this is exactly how a cover version should be done as it leaves me shocked and sniggering at the audacity of it all. I hope Dee and the boys like it too.
It’s then, just when think I have the measure of Henrik Palm’s ‘Poverty Metal’ sound that up pops ‘Nihil’, a short and gentle stand out that segues perfectly into ‘Nihilist’ a tune which harks back to the gothic majesty of In Solitude and gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. and sat alongside Division Of Laura Lee’s recent ‘Apartment’ album it reinforces the fact that Sweden is once again producing some of the most refreshingly essential music out there in 2020.
Closing things down we have ‘Last Christmas’ (no not that ‘Last Christmas’) a largely instrumental track that initially draws heavily on the influence of Black Sabbath before spiralling off into another rock galaxy altogether.
At just 37 minutes long ‘Poverty Metal’ is a record that leaves me wanting more, (so much so I immediately went out and also bought Palm’s 2017 debut ‘Many Days’) and in an age when the mainstream rock media seems to think that regurgitating the term “Classic Rock” is some sort of quality mark, ‘Poverty Metal’ sticks a huge middle finger up at that assumption.
Fuck genres, this is poverty metal and I fucking love it.