4.5 out of 5 Stars!
The album Pioneers was a fun discovery for me. I’d never heard of Sweden’s Siena Root prior to 2015, and with Pioneers being its fifth studio album, I’m still angry it took me so long to unearth the band.
Anyway, Siena Root has a sound eerily reminiscent of early ’70s Blues-based Hard Rock/Heavy Psych groups, the music of my youth. With fierce and feisty interplay between guitar and Hammond organ on most tracks, along with a solid rhythm section and in-your-face production, this release seems almost as if members of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Bloodrock, Steppenwolf, and perhaps even Grand Funk Railroad got together with members of more current “retro acts” such as Witchwood, D’Accord, Black Bonzo, Hypnos 69, etc. to release this collection of tracks.
Actually, in my opinion, the instrumentation on Pioneers is probably closest to Deep Purple, but a mixture of that band’s first two lineups. For instance, the tune “Going Down” is quite similar in style and atmosphere to Deep Purple’s “Black Night,” while the song “Root Rock Pioneers” brings to mind the bluesy “Lazy” from the Machine Head album. And in truth, other tracks such as “7 Years,” “The Way You Turn,” or “Spiral Trip” also seem as if any of them could have been outtakes from Purple albums, therefore, any fans of that sound/style will likely find this album of interest.
And the vocalist (Jonas “Joe Nash” Ahlen, the newest one) reminds me of a cross between Rod Evans (Deep Purple/Captain Beyond) and—especially at the end of the more Doors-inspired “In My Kitchen” or during “Root Rock Pioneers” or “Keep On Climbing” when he really gets raspy—James Rutledge (Bloodrock). Although Ahlen doesn’t possess the widest of ranges (ie. no Ian Gillan here…as I said, closer to Rod Evans), he’s darned accurate with a gutsy and energetic delivery, perfect for this style of music. And nowadays, after thoroughly investigating the band’s back catalogue since originally writing this review in 2015, I’ve come to the conclusion that, of all Siena Root’s singers, both male and female, fronting the group since its formation back in 1997, Ahlen is probably my favorite among them.
Regardless, although the band’s back catalogue is quite enjoyable, I’ll admit to not being overly enamored with the experiments in Raga Rock that tended to overwhelm the previous studio album (2009’s Different Realities). But thankfully, the band abandoned those “Raga experiments” in favor of concentrating once again on creating the Hard Rock/Stoner Rock/Heavy Psych it did so damned well on its first trio of albums. And not only that, but Siena Root somehow added an extra zing to Pioneers, a special quality that continually entices me to add it to my “current playlist” time and time again.