Hoven Droven,
(NorthSide, 1997)

If your idea of Swedish folk music is polite little fiddle tunes, this is not your album. Granted, Hoven Droven does offer many polite little fiddle tunes on Groove; the group goes on to turn them into headbanger anthems, however. As hideous as that may sound, let me add that the results are rather felicitous.

Groove is NorthSide's compilation of Hoven Droven's first two albums, Hia Hia and Grov. It clocks in at over an hour and adds a couple of previously unreleased live tracks to sweeten the pot -- not that most American listeners would have run across this music in its original release.

Hoven Droven's unique flavor stems from its combination of fiddle, electric guitar and brass. Kjell-Erik Eriksson's fiddling is in well known on the Nordic folk scene (he is one-third of Triakel with Emma Hardelin and Janne Stromstedt). Bo "Bosse" Lindberg's electric guitar playing would be an asset to any hard rock band. Jens Comen and Gustav Hylen contribute brass that adds an unexpected but apt touch to many tracks. The other members of the band are Pedro Blom on bass and Bjorn Hoglund on drums and percussion. The combination of rock, folk and jazz sounds allows Hoven Droven to stake out its own sonic territory.

This album's particular groove comes from the combination of traditional dance melodies (mostly polskas) snaking their ways over a background of hammering percussion. The opening of "Timas Hans" is a case in point. Hylen's trumpet winds through the traditional tune, then veers off into a jazz-style solo, while Hoglund's drums carry the beat underneath. Then all hell breaks loose as Lindberg's screaming guitar makes its entrance. "Slentbjenn" is a wild rollicking tune that is dedicated to a mythical Swedish beast, the "slope-bear." It's the sort of music that really gets a mosh pit going, but Erikkson's fiddle almost gives the tune a bluegrass tinge. The contrast of traditional melodies and slamming heavy metal beats resolves itself into an energy that goes way beyond mere toe-tapping.

Not everything on Groove is loud: "Stilla" is an electric guitar meditation that brings Led Zeppelin's more ambient moments to mind. "Arepolska" is a lovely melding of disparate instruments into a bittersweet melody full of twilight. The relatively mellow "Skogspolska" has a sinuous, lulling melody.

If you don't like hard rock, you won't like this album. If, on the other hand, you like creative ways of playing traditional music, give Hoven Droven's Groove a spin. Turn it up to 11!

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 14 June 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.