Finally. After years of worshipping guitar hero Tommi Holappa, I finally have an opportunity to review a new album from Greenleaf.
This moment comes on the tail of Echoes From A Mass, the band’s latest release and a fitting follow-up for 2018’s Hear the Rivers.
Echoes From A Mass is everything we’ve come to expect from Greenleaf in recent years: dark, moody, brooding, and guitar-driven, Stoner-infused Rock.
Before we dive too deep into this album, though, it’s helpful to understand a bit of Greenleaf’s history.
A Brief History of Greenleaf
Guitarist Tommi Holappa founded Greenleaf in 1999 with Bengt Bäcke (bass) and Karl Daniel Lidén (drums) as a side project while working on Dozer, a seminal and influential Swedish Stoner Rock band.
Since its inception, Greenleaf has seen line-up alterations (with a change or addition in at least one position) on nearly every single album. In fact, Greenleaf’s Echoes From A Mass marks the first time the line-up has been exactly the same as its predecessor.
Similarly, the band’s sound has often wavered wildly from one album to the next. A quick snapshot of the first half of Greenleaf’s studio albums:
- Revolution Rock (2001) – A delightful explosion of retro-inspired guitar Rock
- Secret Alphabets (2003) – A revival of Dio-era Sabbath mixed with Psychedelic overtones
- Agents of Ahriman (2007) – An immediate guitar classic showcasing some of Holappa’s greatest heroics in fan favorites like “Stray Bullit Woman” and “Highway Officer”
- Nest of Vipers (2012) – A moody twist on Psychedelic Rock, peaking on its concluding track, “Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sin)”
After Nest of Vipers, Greenleaf really began to hone in on their signature sound. In 2014, Tommi Holappa was joined by vocalist Arvid Jonsson and drummer Sebastian Olsson (Bengt Bäcke was once again on bass) for Trails & Passes. Arvid Jonsson brought a new depth of emotion in the vocal delivery, and Sebastian Olsson demonstrated a penchant for beating the hell out of his drums.
With each passing album since Trails & Passes, Greenleaf has continued to refine and enhance its sound. Rise Above the Meadow (2016) opens on “A Million Fireflies,” a powerful opening track, and it’s quickly followed by a flurry of tracks worthy of blasting on the desert highway.
In 2018, Greenleaf rode many of the same tones and textures of Rise Above the Meadow into Hear The Rivers. While not quite as attention-grabbing as its predecessor, the album was much of what anyone could expect: a combination of hook-ridden guitars, powerful drums, thumping basslines, and pained, emotive vocals.
With all of that out of the way, we finally arrive at Echoes From A Mass.
Echoes From A Mass and Greenleaf in 2021
- Tommi Holappa – Guitar
- Sebastian Olsson – Drums
- Hans Fröhlich – Bass
- Arvid Hällagård – Vocals
Echoes From A Mass was recorded, mixed, and mastered by former band member and co-founder Karl Daniel Lidén (he was the drummer on the band’s self-titled EP as well as Revolution Rock and Secret Alphabets). It was released by Napalm Records.
Echoes From A Mass Album Review
Track 1: Tides
Right out of the gate, “Tides” is signature Greenleaf of the last few years. There’s the lightly fuzzed guitar riff, a rolling drum, and haunted, layered vocals.
“Tides” boasts an emotional delivery throughout, but it peaks during its dramatic conclusion—an explosive breakdown following an adbrupt rest.
It’s not the catchiest song in Greenleaf’s catalog, but it’s stunning enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to see it become a fan favorite.
Track 2: Good God I Better Run Away
As on many of the songs on this album, Sebastian Olsson delivers a powerful performance behind the drum set on “Good God I Better Run Away”—which is then balanced by Holappa’s intricate flourishes and deadly riffs.
This is what has become classic Greenleaf: a great riff connected by powerful choruses.
Track 3: Needle In My Eye
“Needle In My Eye” is slightly more cosmic and atmospheric than the previous two tracks, and the lyrics here are as dramatic as they are pained and betrayed:
A needle in my eye
One breath is one less sigh
I fade away slowly falling fast
One hammer through my head
The pain is crimson red
The aches are just memories from the past
This is a song filled with haunts, and Holappa’s palm-muted riffs open into gaping wounds with every round of the chorus.
“Needle In My Eye” is definitely a worthy song for Echoes From A Mass.
Track 4: Love Undone
After the careful, deliberate openings of the first three tracks, the intro for “Love Undon” feels open and carefree (though it’s admittedly structured just as carefully).
Arvid Hällagård’s vocal tracks are the true saviors on this song, which otherwise seems to meander aimlessly for much of its duration.
Track 5: Bury Me My Son
“Bury Me My Son” is the second-longest track on Echoes From A Mass, which Greenleaf seizes on for a little sonic exploration. As expected, “Bury Me My Son” takes a moment to get started, but it eventually finds its footing with typical Greenleaf flair.
“Bury Me My Son” has all of the ingredients for a killer performance, but it struggles to remain consistent as a cohesive unit.
Example: There’s a surpisingly uncharacteristic guitar solo from Holappa which runs over a simple bass line and drums, and the whole experience, while not terrible, creates a void that isn’t as moving as it should be.
While it’s certainly not the best song on Echoes From A Mass, there is one great moment right before the 3-minute mark where the Arvid Hällagård’s vocals suddenly shift into a massive bassline. Though cool. it’s not quite enough to save the song.
Track 6: A Hand of Might
A massive song with a forceful delivery, “A Hand of Might” sounds like a companion track to “A Point of a Secret” (Hear The Rivers).
Track 7: March on Higher Grounds
“March on Higher Grounds” opens with near-shimmering guitars and a treble we haven’t heard in a Greenleaf tune in quite some time.
After the plodding and struggles within the last few songs, this is a return to form. In fact, the saving grave within “March on Higher Grounds” may be its relative simplicity. This is a Heavy Rock song with (relatively) few bells and whistles, which helps the band hit the “reset button” on the entire album.
“March on Higher Grounds” reaches its own apex in the final minute, especially when Hällagård uses his voice to ride over one of the guitar riffs.
Track 8: Hang On
With its intricate, pulsing riff, “Hang On” could have been a remarkably upbeat song, but it’s characteristically subdued in Greenleaf’s hands.
That’s not a complaint in any way. “Hang On” is still a great banger for ripping over desert dunes (like much of Greenleaf’s catalog).
Track 9: On Wings of Gold
“On Wings of Gold” is Echoes From A Mass’s longest track, and these lengthier songs are when Greenleaf tends to become most creative (for examples, check out the guitar heroics on “Pilgrims” from 2016’s Rise Above the Meadow or “Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sin)” on 2012’s Nest of Vipers).
“On Wings of Gold” does not disappoint.
This is another emotive rocker with vintage Holappa (listen for his guitar solos that could have been plucked directly from Agents of Ahriman).
The atypical construction keeps you on your toes while constantly building to its stunning conclusion.
“On Wings of Gold” would have been the perfect ending to Echoes From A Mass.
Since it’s not, my expectations were sky-high for “What Have We Become.”
Track 10: What Have We Become
I shouldn’t have worried about “What Have We Become.” The band uses this song to conclude atypically—on a song that is primarily vocals and a single electric guitar.
The emotion here is palpable, and the song quickly becomes one of the band’s most emotionally impactful tracks in their catalog.
This meditative conclusion is a fascinating change of pace, and it’s a surprisingly welcomed way to end the album after a powerful track like “On Wings of Gold.”
Pros: I’m thrilled to see Holappa & Co. continuing to push the envelope within their signature sound.
“What Have We Become” demonstrates the band’s ability to construct simple yet moving tunes, and “On Wings of Gold” shows they still have uncharted creative depths to pull from.
Despite a few mishaps along the way, Echoes From A Mass is an album that concludes strongly enough to keep you wanting more, and its surprises around each corner makes it worthy of additional listens.
Cons: This wasn’t a winner on the first listen.
This is an album that’s really best digested note by note, without ever wandering from your speakers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s counter to what we’ve been able to expect in the past. Agents of Ahriman, of course, was packed front to back with fun guitar licks, and Rise Above the Meadow plowed through track after track after track with roaring hooks.
Echoes From A Mass simply demands a closer listen for full appreciation, and that’s sure to turn some folks away.
Beyond that, however, Greenleaf’s Echoes From A Mass suffers from a few duds. “Bury Me My Son” has the potential to be an emotionally impactful track (and it is at points), but it ultimately falters in its frail execution. Similarly, “A Hand of Might” occasionally feels like the band is fluffing up the record to give us some breathing room between better songs.
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Listen to Echoes From A Mass