FREAK KITCHEN – Cooking With Pagans

3ece46a8This is the first review of a Freak Kitchen album I have ever written, despite the fact that the band has released eight albums, including this one, since they started out in 1992. To be perfectly honest with you, I haven’t even listen to any of their albums at all. Why is that then? Well, that sure beats the hell out of me. It’s really weird because I usually check out a band when there’s at least one member that I recognize and find interesting, by default. Why this hasn’t happened with Freak Kitchen, I’m clueless of. I first heard of guitarist and lead vocalist Matthias “IA” Eklundh when he completely blew me away as a member of Danish AOR turned melodic prog rockers Fate on their come back album Scratch n’ Sniff in 1990. Back then we were a small group of dudes that completely worshipped IA’s brand of guitar playing and we were all convinced that he would be a bigger guitar God than Yngwie Malmsteen. Well, that didn’t happen, even though it really should have, but what is so weird with this is that I didn’t bother to check out Freak Kitchen when I found out that it was IA’s new band, a thing I would normally do in a minute. Ok, so I have seen the odd Freak Kitchen video or two and for some reason, those songs never stuck with me at all, even though I heard that the boys are all killer musicians. I also saw the band live at Väsby Rock in 2012 and they were really good, but I still didn’t check them out. So with the release of their 8th album, titled Cooking With Pagans, I thought I would change that. What you have to be aware of before sinking your ears into a Freak Kitchen album is that these guys aren’t your standard regular hard rock / heavy metal band. The boys play progressive hard rock with a heavy metal twist and even though the songs takes unexpected turns all the time, progressive here does not mean Dream Theater progressive. For all their weirdness, the closest comparison I can find is another three-piece, Primus. However, Freak Kitchen are way more into songs and catchy melodies and aren’t as schizophrenic and intricate. So with a “let’s see then…” on my mind, I dive into the ocean of weirdness that is Freak Kitchen.

“Professional Help” kicks this groove fest into action and what gushes over my ear canals is – grunge! Well, maybe not grunge grunge, but the verses makes me think of Nirvana – a band that I hate with all I’ve got! But I really dig this anyway and the rest of the song is a metal track. A killer song with a very melodic guitar solo from Eklundh. The title “(Signing Up For An) Anal Bleach” made me laugh when I first saw it and it sure looks like some funny stuff if you have a really bad (and gross) sense of humour like me, but the track deals with a more serious topic – the whole stupidness with the ideals of beauty and our obsession with technology that runs our lives in this day and age. The song itself is not the strongest piece of music I have ever heard, though. Not bad, but it doesn’t move me. “Comeback To Come Back” has a message that feels very accurate nowadays. It’s kick in the nuts to all the bands that reunites without having anything new to provide and just keeps on being a nostalgia act. They really hit bullseye with it. “I Don’t Want To Golf” needs no further explanation, the title really says it all. Musically, the song is wonderful, a groovy pop-rocker that gets me going all the way. Lyrically, I subscribe to every word – I don’t wanna golf either – ever! Things gets a bit more serious with the fantastic “Once Upon A Time In Scandinaviastan” that brings up the subject of all prohibitions and regulations that we live by on a daily basis. I do get the lyrics here, but I’m not too sure that the rest of the world that is not Scandinavia will. Musically, the song is progressive yet melodic and it reminds me a bit of the first Vagabond album (Jorn Lande, Ronnie LeTekro and Morty Black of TNT’s band that released two albums in the mid 90’s) if you know them. A jazzy groove settles in on “Private Property” and the killer melodies makes the song real catchy. The title “Sloppy” does not make justice for the song because it’s anything but – it is groovy and catchy with a contagious melody – love it! “Goody Goody” is another one of those funny and dorky kind of titles, but the song is bloody awesome. I love the early 60’s pop mixed with hard rock arrangements. “The Mathematics Of Defeat” is more or less a pop song albeit a heavy kind and very melodic, but when you least expect it, a heavy break comes in and turn things a round for a bit and makes things exciting. The album’s first single “Freak Of The Week” closes the record and isn’t that just the Freak Kitchen way to do it? Put the single last? It’s a real killer that borders to pop metal and why not? This is Freak Kitchen and they don’t do rules!

If your flavour of choice is vanilla, then this might not be for you because with Freak Kitchen you get any flavour they damn well chose, like it or not. Still, with all their progressive breaks and difficult and complex turns – these guys are really brilliant musicians – what makes this an enjoyable listen are the songs. No matter how tricky they wanna play it, the songs are alway kept in focus. They would never allow a bad song that they know wouldn’t apply to people just for the sake of showing off. Also, they are not being weird just for the sake of being weird – or like many artist would say, “we wanna be original”…) – no the songs just comes out that way and you can easily hear that it comes natural for them. But they never ever lose the melodies and / or the groove. Fact is, you don’t have to be a musician to appreciate Freak Kitchen – I’m not. Freak Kitchen works just as well for the regular rocker who likes a good time rocking out as for the struggling musician who likes to analyze music down to the last atom. This is a really great hard rock album and it turns out that this guy has a lot of Freak Kitchen catching up to do. For the rest of you, if you’re already a Freak Kitchen-fan, you probably already have purchased this – if not, you should – but for the rest who hasn’t heard them, change that. I have a really hard time believing that any rocker with just a bit of a musical vein inside them could find this disappointing. Great job!

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

01. Professional Help
02. (Saving Up For An) Anal Bleach
03. Come Back To Comeback
04. I Don’t Want To Golf
05. Once Upon A Time In Scandinavistan
06. Hide
07. Private Property
08. Sloppy
09. Ranks Of The Terrified
10. Goody Goody
11. The Mathematics Of Defeat
12. Freak Of The Week

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