As anyone who’s ever seen the Eurovision Song Contest can tell you, the Finnish like it heavy. And as anyone who’s ever crossed paths with Rückwater can tell you, it’s a matter of pride. Hailing from frosty Tampere, this ‘rück and röll’ trio play a brand of stoner rock in the vein of Truckfighters or Black Spiders, high in energy and luscious with sludgy breakdowns. Their third EP, ‘Bonehead’ shows them embracing their heavy blues brethren, raising a toast to groove metal idols Down. If ever music was made for herding buffalo with a steamroller, this is it.
The scowling guitar of Make Makkonen rides high for opener ‘Once More With Feeling’. Intricate for the instrumentals and pistol-whipping for the riff, the chugging distortion is the wild mustang that vocalist Jussi Vehman saunters into town on. His soaring, grit-gargling vocals split the difference between Phil Anselmo stuck in traffic and Dave Grohl stubbing his toe. They take on an added Alice in Chains crispness when Makkonen drops in a harmony line; you just wish he stepped up to the microphone more often. Teamed with Jape Makkonen’s drumwork, mixed to perfection for maximum punch, ‘Bonehead’ has a sound that’ll find any stoner rock stalwart safely in their comfort zone.
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That Down-style blues groove runs through the whole EP, but Rückwater keep gnawing at the walls. ‘No Gain’ and title track ‘Bonehead’ are the heavy-hitters, fast paced and howling like revving truck engines, whilst one minute punkish flash-in-the-pan ‘Super Frustration’ verges on the hardcore with breakneck drums and throat-tearing vocals. The EP takeaway has to be ‘Labyrinth’, a sluggish blues strider that belongs as the theme song for some amoral spur-chinking bandito. Though also worth a note is the ten-minute final track, ‘Flame Doesn’t Cast a Shadow’. Dabbling in post-rock and blooming like a desert rose, it’s a high point for both the interlocked vocals and Vehman’s bass. There’s no doubting that it’s an experiment, not a polished single, but it does show that Rückwater are more than just a sturdy stoner rock playlist filler.
Overall, it is impossible to get round the fact that this is an EP when it ought to be an album. Each of the tracks are solid. ‘Once More With Feeling’ and ‘Labyrinth’ might even verge on excellent. But you do wonder why Rückwater could wait another half a year to polish off five more licks and turn this into a long-overdue full release. That being said, the production is excellent. The mixing on the drums in particular is gold standard. When that full-length album does finally surface, there’s every reason to believe it’ll be spectacular. Especially if it carries on this new crunching bluesified sound. For three fellows from Finland, Rückwater sure got the groove.