Since the early 2000’s, guitar-and-drum duos like the Black Keys and the White Stripes had demonstrated to us the powerful music-making capabilities on a smaller scale. Now, another band may be destined to reach a similar milestone. Sweden’s indie rock gem – Johnossi and their newly released album ‘Blood Jungle’ catapults them as an aggressive powerhouse ready to pack a punch. Especially by signing with major label Polydor UK, the group could very well reach the international acclaim they deserve.
The two-piece outfit comprises of vocalist/guitarist John Engelbert and drummer Oskar “Ossie” Bonde, who started out in their hometown of Stockholm, Sweden back in 2004. Success came swift; already being signed with a local label just after playing four gigs. They gained a sizeable European audience, having won multiple awards, but had yet to make their mark globally. While Engelbert primarily played acoustic guitar, his batch of pedal effects and amplifiers branded his stylistic approach to recording and performing. A sound that become an integral part, as well as with Bonde’s dynamic patterns, for Johnossi’s fierce sound.
‘Blood Jungle,” their latest installment, demonstrates their mature and indie rock-solid tone. Their heavy, spirited opener ‘Blood” sets the standard for the electrifying album. Though the overall direction is divergent from their celebrated ‘Mavericks,’ it still is characteristic of the band’s powerful resonance and lyrical ingenuity. The next track ‘Air is Free’ keeps up the momentum, an ode to living fearlessly and in the moment.
However, their politically charged ‘Hands,’ stands out for its controversial subject matter – police brutality. Written through the perspective of the victim and perpetrator, it portrays a heated exchange between both parties, leading up to the arrest of the innocent victim. Its striking lyrics include ‘spread your legs, and put your hands where I can see them’ and ‘it is people like you who deserves to be beaten by me black and blue.’ The single first released back in January.
The following tracks, ‘Freeman’ and ‘Weak Spots,’ add to the alternative soundscape. Particularly with the stomp-worthy ‘Weak Spots,’ which mirrors undoubtedly to the Black Keys’ familiar style, chord progression, and forceful percussive qualities. ‘On A Roll’ slows down just a tad, with a short melodic solo from Engelbert, before hammering back with the catchy and roaring ‘Tall Dark Man.’ Bonde’s impressive drumming, Engelbert’s raspy vocals and robust guitar riffs, makes ‘Tall Dark Man’ one of the album’s top cuts.
Continuing their story-lines with angst anthem ‘Hey Kiddo,’ and harmonious piece ‘War/ Rain,’ the duo then decrescendo to their finale ‘Got Your Gun.’ The heavy riff-based track sounds more like their previous recordings, and yet a perfect culmination to the vitality of ‘Blood Jungle.’ Engelbert’s vocals and Bonde’s instrumentation close the musical expedition with such precision, that the end feels abrupt. The listener wanting more.
Simply put, Johnossi’s tenacious release ‘Blood Jungle’ bursts with vigor and confidence. Their matured sound, instrumentation, and narration can be heard all throughout the album. The 10 compositions transition so smoothly, that the listening experience almost feels buoyant. While some long-time fans may find it harder to embrace their somewhat new sound, the album still delivers gracefully and honestly, nonetheless.
‘Blood Jungle’ is out now.