Let’s just say you are hanging out on a weekend, just enjoying a little “recreational relaxation” and begin to long for music that will match your mellow mood. You look through your collection but nothing feels right. A friend suggests you give a listen to the sixth full-length album from Greenleaf. Your mind is blown because your pal tells you Rise Above The Meadow was recently released in 2016, but the music itself takes you back to the 1970’s. This Swedish stoner rock band wears their classic heavy rock influences on their sleeves.
The driving beat of the opening track, “A Million Fireflies”, draws you in and holds you with a catchy chorus. As all the instruments are highlighted in various sections of the song and with seamless tempo changes, you begin to appreciate the musicianship of Greenleaf. The opening guitar riff that starts off the next track, “Funeral Pyre”, along with the chorus, will get stuck in your head. The vocals of Arvid Jonsson on this song (and, in truth, on most of this album) remind me of Jim Morrison in tone and cadence. In fact, it would be so easy to mistake track 3, “Howl”, for a long-lost Doors song. The shortest song on the album, track 4, “Golden Throne”, has a brisk, toe-tapping beat and impressive guitar solo. Track 5, “Carry Out The Ribbons”, is a guitar-driven tune with a chorus you will find yourself singing along to. Things take an epic turn with track 6, “Levitate and Bow (Pt. 1 & 2)”, an opus that clocks in at nearly seven and a half minutes. The song runs the gamut from ballad to heavy rocker and everything in between. I enjoyed portions of the song but it continued for so long that my mind began to wander and I no longer felt any connection to the music. In my opinion, this could have been edited into a better, more concise song. The remaining songs –“You’re Gonna Be My Ruin”, “Tyrants Tongue” and “Pilgrims”– continue with the driving beats, excellent guitar work, and 1970’s era vocals as established at the beginning of the album.
Overall, Rise Above The Meadow is as well-done an example of stoner rock as you will find in 2016. The songs tend to be rather lengthy with six of the nine coming in at four and a half minutes or more. The tunes all sound very similar as well, to the point that you cannot always determine where one ends and the next begins. This isn’t entirely a bad thing. Many bands have had quite a successful career with variations of the same melody. Regardless, the talent of Greenleaf is undeniable and worth a listen if you are new to the band.