Review – Greenleaf: Rise Above the Meadow

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  • Bio: "Almost by definition, musical side projects aren’t meant to last very long, but rather serve as brief, often one-time departures for musicians otherwise engaged with far more pressing or successful bands -- and that’s why Greenleaf has proved itself to be anything but your typical “side project.”" - Facebook
  • Label: Napalm Records
  • Release Date: February 26th, 2016
  • Genre: Hard Rock, Stoner Rock
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

Greenleaf isn’t exactly a new sludge/stoner rock entry, but chances are pretty high you haven’t heard of them recently. While the band’s debut self-titled EP dropped in 2000, and first full-length titled Revolution Rock a year later, the project eventually went on a hiatus after the 2003 effort Secret Alphabets. This is due to certain members having obligations to the band Dozer, leaving this a side project that had to wait. Even when 2007’s Agents of Ahriman dropped, there was still a lengthy silence in the studio until 2012’s Nest of Vipers. Since then, the releases have been steady, which includes 2014’s Trails & Passes, as well as their latest for 2016 titled Rise Above the Meadow. So, with the band heading into seventeen years of existence, does one expect greatness from the new outing, or is it more of a letdown?

Like the classic acts of yesterday, Rise Above the Meadow is a hazy, buzz-filled odyssey of melodic rock riffs and rhythms guaranteed to send you into another state of mind. “Carry Out the Ribbons” is a prime example, utilizing a tribal approach to the drums that the infectious hooks and softer, clean singing play off of perfectly. The chorus, however, is a far more enthusiastic one, waking you up from your distant journey and bringing you right back to the ground once more. It’s a fairly large departure from “A Million Fireflies”, which finds its roots in the early doom rock world. At the time of listening to this, I had just come off a quick Black Sabbath binge, and it was the perfect complement to that menu, though a bit more aggressive to keep in line with modern heavier acts like High on Fire and Clutch, ushering in a more primal state of mind in comparison. Even “Funeral Pyre” presents itself as more of a moody piece, bringing in darker melodies to the chorus and a passive vocal approach that feels as depressing as the slowly building start of “Levitate and Bow (Pt. 1 & 2)”.

Greenleaf

While Greenleaf may not have the most in-depth catalogue out there, this new offering easily stands as their finest hour. Each track sets up not just a certain mood, but even has the ability to transport you to vivid locations regardless of whether succumbing to a favorite vice or not. Even perfectly sober, it felt as though I were experiencing a contact high from how thick with distortion and grandeur found within is. From moody and depressive to downright empowering and ritualistic, Rise Above the Meadow is the caliber one might expect from many an underground act signed to Rise Above Records, all the while cascading with atmospheres similar to many progressive rock groups in existence. The press release claims it’s a something for fans of The Sword, Weedeater, even Queens of the Stone Age, but that greatly limits the expansive world Sweden’s Greenleaf bring to this album. If you’ve never heard these guys before, now is the perfect time to start getting familiar with them, as Rise Above the Meadow is guaranteed to be considered one of the most outstanding album 2016 has to offer.

Greenleaf

Digital review copy of this release provided by Napalm Records via Freeman Promotions.