WORDS: CORAL DANIELS
S.O.S may well be the universal symbol for help, but Millencolin are in no need of rescue; they’re still killing it, even after all this time. A true punk rock album; holding a mirror to the world, that has all the electrical charge, grit and propulsion of modern bands, but harnesses the anarchy instead of running wild. ‘S.O.S’ will be their ninth studio album release and was recorded in their very own SoundLab Studios, in Örebro last year; with vocalist, Nikola Sarcevic and guitarist, Mathias Färm, producing the record, just like True Brew, which was released in 2015.
As with True Brew, ‘SOS’ has kept the socio-political angle for a lot of the tracks, with ‘Dramatic Planet’, ‘Cave Man’s Land’ and ‘SOS’ demonstrating this most explicitly. However, before the title track opens the album, the stunning artwork by the band’s very own Erik Ohlsson, paints the picture of a world on fire- literally. With burning buildings, a tornado, tweeting birds and a polar bear, holding on to the last of the ice; it’s clear trouble is afoot and the band will be exploring themes like pollution and social media’s impact on the planet. From the moment it’s in your hands the album makes a statement. That alone is such an achievement, for a band that has been around for over a quarter of a century, they can still keep it fresh and topical, which is truly commendable. It’s also an indicator that music isn’t their only talent.
“A true punk rock album; holding a mirror to the world, that has all the electrical charge, grit and propulsion of modern bands, but harnesses the anarchy instead of running wild.”
‘SOS’ opens the album, with a real atmospheric sound that would be a perfect gig opener. You’ve got a crescendo of driving drum rolling, creepy child-like “aaah ah ah” vocals, all getting faster and louder, constantly building until: “I hear a sos” is belted out; kicking off the heavy anthem. The song is almost recognition of the fact the human race has been ignoring the planet’s call for help; suggestive of a destructive society, with lyrics like, “This society is slowly eating me”. It was also right that this would be the defining single of the album.
As their band name suggests, the melancholy of the opener runs through the album. ‘Sour Days’, which is song number three, is pretty explicit about it too: “just accept the sour days are here to stay” is a jutting lyric on this one. But, unlike the call to arms in ‘SOS’, this is more about acceptance and dealing with the negative, which foreshadows the more optimistic nature of later tracks. The vocal is also crisper and smoother sounding, with stronger diction too, in comparison to the rest of ‘SOS’.
Glimmers of hope are scattered across the twelve tracks, but it can be found with ‘Yanny & Laurel’, in the form of their positive rhyming couplets, for example, “got friends on every continent, the future’s bright im confident”. It’s also an emphasis on the band’s great connection and lengthy career. The clever rhyming creates a real strong pace that further adds to their ferocity. Using literary imagery on ‘Trumpets & Poutine’ does this too and is littered with musical metaphors, a favourite being, “conductor who has lost all sense of melody”.
The uplifting ‘let It Be’ is the highlight of the album and it’s just a shame you have to wait till number nine to hear it. It’s got the perfect mix of fuck off and believe in yourself. It’s also super cool how the circular motion of the drum fills mirror the lyrics “round and round” as they play out parallel to each other.
“They still have their signature liveliness, with propulsive beats driving forward the songs, as they move from aggressive instrumentals into melodic choruses”
The majority of tracks follow a similar structure, where an instrumental intro of around 30 seconds, builds and builds until the vocals quick in, and it’s a similar situation at the two thirds marker too. This pattern could get boring for some, but the variety of sounds created still makes the songs feel different and creates a nice flow from each song to the next. It’s also different to their previous work too. Also, as the album progresses the instrumental times shorten, which really gives it a solid accelerated pace.
The only disappointment of the album, is that they appear to have completely moved on from their 90s style, where they were rhythmically rooted in ska, as this would have really stood out in today’s climate and appeased the early years fans, but it’s only right that a band’s direction changes as they mature and perfect their craft; especially after staying together since 1992. They still have their signature liveliness, with propulsive beats driving forward the songs, as they move from aggressive instrumentals into melodic choruses though, so overall it’s a great album and an indicator that they’ll probably be making it to the thirty year marker too.