Two years ago, Stockholm’s Vulkano released its debut album, Live Wild Die Free, to critical acclaim in Europe. Their album, however, was not shared overseas until three weeks ago, where audiences in North America can now enjoy this fantastic duo. Comprised of Cissi Efraimsson (standing drums and vocals) and Lisa Pyk Wirström (keyboards and percussion), Vulkano‘s music is explosive and catchy. It’s difficult to pinpoint their style, although it is mostly a mix of post-punk and pop but they also play music that is very tribal and rhythmic. The lyrics, meanwhile, are unique and sometimes even a bit bizarre. They don’t sing about the usual things (relationships, lost innocence), but instead the entire album is a concept one based on a time when humans lived side-by-side with animals and where an open fire provided the only source of heat and light.
The protagonists of their songs, though, are not all animate creatures. On “Vulkano”, they sing about what it’s like to be a volcano. Played against a goth rock-pop rhythm that would make The Cure proud, Efraimsson sings, “I’m a volcano. Oh. I’m a volcano. Oh! I spit and bleed, and I puke and I scream. A volcano. Oh. I’m a volcano oh!” It would be quite the event to hear Robert Smith sing the chorus.
“Choir of the Wolves” has the feel of Vancouver’s Pack A.D. with its gritty, garage rock-pop mix and tells the story of humans living like wolves (search online for the neat video). “Trolls” and “We Ride” are dark, post-punk tunes in the mould of Paris’ Savages. The former is a haunting song, perfect for one about the arrival of trolls, which are key characters in Swedish folklore. The latter is about the thrill of the hunt and the vulnerability of being the prey.
“Vision Trick” may be the most accessible tune, giving way to Joy Division-like keys and hooks and the hallucinogenic qualities that a Joy Division or Nico song could elicit. The song itself is about knowing something is “out there” but never seeing it. “Spider Spider” has a tribal sounding quality with the pounding drums and tambourine as Efraimsson sings in worship of everyone’s favourite (or not) arachnid. “In the Jungle” follows the same approach, basically a sequel to “Spider Spider”. The stripped down, unamplified version below is fantastic, demonstrating Efraimsson and Wirström’s terrific talent and infectious energy.
The latter third of the album fast forwards to the present day and beyond, but keeping with the same themes of survival and the chase. “2 Young 2 Die” and “Clap Your Bones” are edge-of-your-seats, garage rock thumpers. “Psycho Girl” sees Vulkano return to the Savage-style, booming, post-punk sound. “Wizard of Odd” aptly ends the album, taking a futuristic look about a saviour who saves humankind from aliens .
It is curious that Live Wild Die Free wasn’t released in these parts in 2012, but then again the unusual subjects covered by Vulkano may not have been welcomed by North American audiences at the time. Now, though, is as good as any to discover this quirky, fun, and energetic duo from Sweden. The album is marvelously crafted and a thrill to listen . Just keep an open mind and enjoy the mythology that Cissi Efraimsson and Lisa Pyk Wirström have created and how they have taken familiar sounds and reformulated them in something more haunting and memorable.
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