Norwegian rockers Pristine have returned to the scene with their fifth album, entitled Road Back to Ruin, and what a triumphant return it is.
Headed by vocalist Heidi Solheim Pristine have produced an album of variety in pace, power and emotion. The band is completed by Espen Elverum Jacobsen (guitar), Gustav Eidsvik (bass) and Ottar Tøllefsen (drums) and they are a great team. Guests Anders Oskal and Hansi Enzesperger also bring huge influence with their Hammond organ input.
The album title, Road Back To Ruin, according to the singer, came out of frustration. It’s about social circumstances, in which opinions and values are shifting towards a certain direction. The separation from or the fear of “the others”, being used by influential people to gain even more power. Distrust being spread and walls being built – things that have been done over and over in history and still society seems to be walking right into the same trap once again. People lacking nobleness and empathy, but are gaining hatred – something that Heidi has feared. Hence the last line in the album’s credits is: “Take care of each other. Be generous, including and kind.”
The handle which Heidi has on the way the world is developing is spot on, she has hit the nail on the head.
Road Back To Ruin starts in dramatic fashion with “Sinnerman”. Now, I’m no fan of the term ‘banger’ but this song epitomizes it. Fast and powerful it hits you straight between the eyes and with the added Jon Lord-esque keyboard break the album has a better start than Usain Bolt.
The title track is slower but heavier and Solheim’s vocals are top notch. Crashing riffs and drums open proceedings before toning down to accommodate moody vocals. After the intense slower feel the track ends on a crescendo, a great finish to a great song.
Whilst rocking like a good ‘un, the chorus of “Bluebird” has gospel choir elements backing it up. The track also has a really nice, occasionally funky feel. As mentioned variety is the key and the first three tracks have demonstrated that already.
“Landslide” opens with a Stones inspired riff which is maintained throughout and Espen Elverum Jacobsen hits us with a quality old school solo.
The first slowy comes with “Aurora Skies”, heavy on atmosphere, emotion and thoughtfulness. A song to get lost in.
“Pioneer” picks up the pace once again and is a punchy rocker which I feel is a bit autobiographical of Solheim.
If “Aurora Skies” was heavy on atmosphere then “Blind Spot” has it in shitloads. It has a mesmerizing quality throughout, so just drift away and let it wash over you before being rudely awoken by the riffs introducing “The Sober”. A straight-up ballsy rocker with a solo to match.
“Cause and Effect” can’t really count as a rock track but is a cracker all the same. It has been mentioned elsewhere but it really does have the feel of a James Bond theme. This may have something to do with the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra featuring.
We go a bit country on “Your Song”, inspired by Neil Young’s acoustic recordings. It’s a gentle, simple track where Solheim demonstrates she can do tender as well as power.
It’s back to rock with “Dead End”, a choppy track which drips attitude and has its middle finger firmly in the vertical position.
Road Back To Ruin end with a live recording of “Ghost Chase”. It’s a solid enough track but ends on a guitar wankfest which betrays all the solid work which has gone before, but I’m not going to hold that against them.
Road Back To Ruin, which is out on Nuclear Blast Records, is a belter of an album and Heidi Solheim is a belter of a vocalist. The album has power, feel and touch, along with a barrel load of variety. The band clearly oozes confidence in their ability and that confidence is not at all misplaced. Highly, highly recommended.