Across The Bows @ Prelaten Kro & Scene, Tromsø
by Emīls Vilcāns
Bringing forth a bell, an upright bass and some well-crafted psychedelia infused stoner-rock, the Tromsø, Norway based trio Across The Bows collects a delighted audience at Tromsø’s Prelaten Kro & Scene. Despite the murky darkness outside, the evening of 16th of December is spent under a shimmering musical sun-light, only refreshed by a bluesy breeze.
With the rain pondering upon the rooftops and the newly arrived snow at its retreat once more, the darkened winter period that visits the city of Tromsø in Northern Norway turns to be as gloomy as ever. Massive mountains in every direction you look, it’s comprehensible where the root of the influence for those handful hardcore bands, black-metal acts and doom outfits lay. Yet, as much as it is alluring to head down to a dimmed bar, sip the local beer and flow in the trance of something darkishly pressing, from time to time we angst for a drip of light. Especially this time around. And so, with a drive for traveling back in time through their own works, Across The Bows explore the colorful 70s blues-rock realm infused with trippy psychedelics and jazzy rhythms. Each of the members emerging from different musical backgrounds, the trio consists of Magnus Tornensis [Vederkast; Ivvár] on drums, Christo Stangness [Exhale Quartet; Mariann Fiskeseth Kvartett] on bass/up-right bass and Magnus L. Kristoffersen [Changeling; Ivvár] on vocals/guitar. However, for this particular show, the spot behind the classy looking contrabass and bass-guitar is filled in by Gustav Peder Eidsvik [Blåsfjel; Reloaded].
From the very start The Bows radiate an easy-going atmosphere, lingering amongst the first fans to arrive and walking about to have a pleasant chat. As I meet up with Magnus Tornensis and the step-in bass-guitarist Gustav, Magnus briefly speaks of the band and notes that the trio is actually heading into the studio to finally record some material over the holidays. Eventually collecting a decent crowd, the band steps away and shortly after take their place upon the stage. With a notable emphasis on Tornensis’ drum part and a persistent dry cymbal sound, they open up with a groovy enough tune – Balls To Four Watch that nets the attention of people present. Creating that first impression of blues based psych rock, the distorted guitar extends into a similar tone heard within bands like Tame Impala and Dead Meadow. Having Gustav switching to the magnificently looking up-right bass, the band’s whole image changes, giving a hint that the follow-up is going to have that jazzy sound to the whole out-put. Stretching out a delicate main-riff from the start, Good Gracious makes you snap your fingers to a familiar jazzy aesthetic, whilst still rocking the stoner-psych train.
Finally arriving at the moment I was so anxious on hearing, Across The Bows lead the song Brothers with the first sounds of Tornensis’ repetitively pounding on the hanging bell. His acoustic guitar in hand, Magnus L. Kristoffersen progresses on the song towards a country’ish blues ride that somewhat resonates with the acoustic tracks found with the likes of Radio Moscow. Moreover, once reaching somewhat the middle of their 7th song Chameleon, which proves to also be their most diverse, Kristoffersen surprises with a nicely fitted reggae guitar for a glimpse and eventually goes on to the first distinct guitar solo from the whole show. Followed by another acoustic piece Devil By Night, the song somewhat strikes a larger familiarity within the fans, driven by a catchy guitar arpeggio, but it’s as far as it goes, sounding a tad too repetitive. Yet, that’s the only song that features all of the members singing in unison. For what seemed the very end of the show, the song didn’t feel like a closer at all, leaving a thirst for one more energetic piece. Seeing the band stepping away, a fear struck that it was the end of it. A moment passed, and the band jumped back up for their most energetic track – Settle Down. Striking to be a heavy-psych song, the start hit up a feel from the likes of the man, the legend Jimi Hendrix.
Altogether playing 9 songs that summed up an exact hour, Across The Bows generally put on a rockin-fun show. With the up-right bass on the scene and resonating jazzy rhythms both from the bass and drums, this directional nuance drags the band from falling into a generic blues/psych pit. Their whole idea behind the band being exploring the roots, taking Hendrix and Zeppelin as their main influences, these guys manage to shape the sound to a somewhat original experience – and not only for the listener, for the guys playing as well. Which is also the reason why their enthusiasm and generally sunny vibe is so sincere in the first place. Whilst looking forward to their debut, I can’t help but get the feeling that this band will be one of those which you have to experience live to fully understand, as their hippy’ish presence plays a rather huge role.