I always tend to wince a little when a band attempts to classify their sound like an entirely new genre. That said, when I received the bio for Norway’s Bokassa billing themselves as “stoner punk”, I was honestly a bit apprehensive. I’m here to tell you though, as a whole, the band’s new 9 song offering ‘Crimson Riders’ delivers on that moniker is a powerfully harmonious and pseudo-cohesive way.
Album instrumental opener, “Brologue” sets a deceptive slow spacey chugga-chug doom to feel that quickly gives way to the more frantic pace of “Charmed & Extremely Treacherous.” Admittedly, the latter honestly did push my 90’s punk rocker buttons in all the right spots. Lyrics about destruction, background “whoa-oh-ohs” and gang vocal chants that could most certainly feel at home on an album by Anti-Flag or Down By Law. What’s not to like?
Just as I felt like I had a grasp on where the band is headed, “Vultures” tripped me up a bit. This one has an undeniable hook-laden-fist-pumping-windows-down poppiness that is the album’s biggest contender for commercial radio play. But, what’s this? A saxophone squeals out at about the mid-point of the track that made me audibly say, “Holy shit.” It’s kind of like getting a high-five from Sasquatch. I didn’t expect it, but it’s pretty cool that it happened, and you can bet I’m going to tell my friends about it!
By the time I got to “Mouthbreathers, Inc.,” I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I was pleased to be presented with Queens Of The Stone Age style riffing melded with more 90’s Victory hardcore gang vocal chants and pop baiting. I was finally starting to sense a theme in their approach and I became a believer in Bokassa’s genre-fusing methodology, looking keenly forward to what was to come.
“Wrath Is Love” is a bit thrash opus, a bit swaggering pub shanty. Drink a beer, hug buddy, fight buddy. Trust me on this one.
The album’s title track “Crimson Riders” is just unadulterated, unapologetic, punch you in the junk thrash dotted with slow, epic moments. This is a pit starter. My only gripe was that it was over too quickly at just 2 minutes long. I felt like there was a bit more room to breathe here, but I suppose (like a good pit) there’s something to be said for diving in quickly, making your point, and jumping out relatively unscathed.
“Captain Cold One” is ridiculous, but in an oddly heroic way. With lyrical content that gives shoutouts to everything from Nickelback to Nickelodeon to podcasts to Mall Cop. It’s an anthem for all things super dude-bro. It’s one of the tall cans of Monster Energy in musical form. If you could condense a frat party into a 3-minute rager, it might sound something like this.
“I am the greatest man alive!” kicks off the song, “Blunt Force Karma” in overly self-assured hardcore fashion. If fists aren’t flying when the band performs this one live, then the crowd must be dead. Tough, fast, and brutal as hell. “And you’re not gonna slow us down!” I have no doubt, Bokassa. I’d be scared to try.
Capstone by “Immortal Space Pirate 2”, distinct aspects of black metal smashed face-first into distinct stoner riffs, blast beats, and hypnotic Viking chants are all accounted for. Vocalist/guitarist Jorn Kaarstad says, “It’s a space opera I had in my head about this immortal space pirate who roams around. We started it on ‘Divide & Conquer’. It’s cool to watch it continue.” The band obviously couldn’t care less about what is supposed to be ok or make sense anymore and that’s why this track works. Like the rest of the album, all expectations are set aside for the sake of pushing a tongue-in-cheek narrative forward that paints some grand scenarios in the listener’s mind.
On paper, Bokassa’s often disjointed approach with ‘Crimson Riders’ seems as if it should just fall to the ground at any moment. Despite stepping outside of familiar formulas, or perhaps thanks to doing so, they’ve engineered this collection of songs and their sound overall to be an unwavering and sturdy structure. I’ll definitely be keeping an ear open for the next chapter in the life of the immortal space pirate.