Saunabadh - "Iku-Turso"
(Foz Sound Production 2001, FOZCD002)
From Aural Innovations #19 (April 2002)
I got my first taste of Finnish rockers Saunabadh when I reviewed their 3 song CDEP debut in AI #7. The band still consists of former Kingston Wall bassist Jukka Jylli, Esa Lilja on drums, and Jessica on powerhouse vocals, though guitarist Janne Lehto has now been replaced by Janne Hirvonen. Their latest release is still not a full-length, but a 5 song 18 minute set including 3 originals and 2 cover songs.
Among the originals is the title track which is a solid rock song that is somewhat mainstream, but much of the guitar parts have a psychedelic edge to them that make the song more interesting than it might have been. "Happy Tonight" is another solid rocker but didn't particularly excite me. But "Cup Of Tea" is an excellent song that has a strong Kingston Wall influence, and Hirvonen's guitar at some points has a distinct Petri Walli ring to it. One of the cover tunes is a kick ass version of the Jefferson Airplane classic, "Somebody To Love". Hirvonen's guitar has a great fuzzed 60's sound, but gives the song his own mark without cloning Jorma. And overall, the song pays tribute to the original but is a far more pounding rocker. I like it. And finally... "Waterloo"... yup, THAT "Waterloo". Now I'll admit that Abba is one of my guilty little pleasures (DON'T tell anyone!). And Saunabadh's version is VERY different from the original. Hmmmm... not sure what to make of this. But hey... if Kingston Wall can cover Donna Summer, these guys can do Abba, right?
The main difference between Iku-Turso and the first Saunabadh CD is that the new one is more polished and doesn't take off on jams as much as the first. Furthermore, I was close to blaming it all on Janne Hirvonen who I didn't feel was as expressive a guitarist as Lehto. But then I read the letter from Esa that accompanied the CD who admits that the band intentionally cut down on the jamming for this release, though it sounds like in concert they stretch out a bit more. Anyway, given that information it may be unfair to criticize Hirvonen based on these songs. I'd personally like to see a compromise between this and the looser style on the first CD. A tight polished band... but not afraid to "take off". "Cup Of Tea" bridges that gap a bit. In any event, these guys are hot and I hope they find their identity soon and release a full-length CD.
For more information you can visit the Saunabadh web site at: http://www.saunabadh.com/.
Ilu-Turso and the first Saunabadh CD are available from Hippie Shake Records: http://www.hippieshakerecords.com.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz