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Reviews RCD2197

Fire! comprise three Swedish jazz musicians — on saxes, bass and drums — but their music rarely sounds like jazz. Instead, the default setting is loudspeaker-rattling sludge rock, based around Johan Berthling's thick, grinding, ostinato basslines. "When Her Lips Collapsed" sees Mats Gustafsson howling on a baritone sax over a slo-mo 6/4 pulse; "To Shave The Leaves. In Red. In Black" is a frankly terrifying piece of spartan, gothic metal, where Gustafsson sounds like he's mutilating a hymn on the tenor sax. Best of all is the fidgety, one-chord funk of "Washing Your Heart In Filth", where Andreas Werliin sounds like three drummers playing at once. 8/10.
Uncut (UK)

Since coming together in 2008, Sweden's Fire! have gleefully rebooted the power trio format to mate raging free jazz skronk with the monolithic power of Sabbath's first album. Like a modern day Cream, each player gets an equal shout between super prolific sax titan Mats Gustafsson's coruscating Ayler-like roars, Johan Berthling's earth-shuddering basslines and Andreas Werliin's drum hoodoo. Now on their sixth album since 2009's ”You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago” (not counting their behemoth Fire! Orchestra spinoff), the trio follow 2016's ”She Sleeps She Sleeps” with seven sensitively brutal missives from the dark side, building on the title track's template of Berthling's colossal gouge, Werliin's umbilical percussion and the full-throated elemental roar that's taken Gustafsson to play with giants like Peter Brötzman. The three reach maximum thrust in the churning cauldron of the gloriously-titled ”Washing Your Heart In Filth” or ”Up. And Down.” sounding like early Van der Graaf on a daytrip to Hades, although they're equally effective going dirt-slow funereal on ”To Shave The Leaves. in Red. In Black” or spatial closer ”I Guard Her To Rest. Declaring Silence.”, Berthling swooning on double bass.
Prog (UK)

Don’t say it hasn’t happened to you. One morning you wake up and you really, really want to play heavy music. Stooges heavy, Black Sabbath heavy, nothing fancy but I broke your pavement with my bronto-booted step heavy. Well, it happens to jazz musicians too, even musicians like Mats Gustafsson who are already acquainted with a myriad of opportunities to play hard, fast and unencumbered by the Geneva Convention. So the mission that he, bassist, Johan Berthling, and drummer Andreas Werlin pursue when they convene as Fire! is very specific. They must play as hard as they need to but not duplicate what they do in other ensembles. Additionally they must adhere to the monolithic heaviosity of hard rock without betraying their collective decades of improvisational practice. The Hands could be subtitled, Mission Accomplished. It lurches into action with a shudder of distressed electronics and distorted bass before Gustafsson’s bass sax scoops deep into the groove with a melody that’s as simple as it is cruel. But while it sounds massive, this music is not monolithic. Variety comes from the respite when Scandinavian movie dialogue or a rumble that sounds suspiciously like a satisfied cat edges the horn aside, and subtlety manifests in the coexisting layers of rough texture on slower tunes.
Dusted (US)

This sixth album from the core trio of Gustafsson, Berthling and Werliin is an exercise in minimal simplicity. Apart from the low, brooding hum of 'Touches Me With The Tips Of Wonder', every track here is built around extremely basic bass and drum parts. Krautrock is a clear influence, with The Hands' setting up a motorik pulse, while the insistent stomp of 'Washing Your Heart In Filth' seems to set its sights on Can's monumental `Mother Sky' riff (famously appropriated for The Knack's `My Sharona'). Doom is another touchstone, with the nine-minute `To Shave The Leaves. In Red. In Black' setting off at a sluggish, thuggish crawl that makes Earth sound like Return to Forever. Over these primitive rhythmic strategies, saxman Gustafsson unpacks a deliberately limited bag of techniques, favouring long, lingering calls that bleed over into keening skronk. Gustafsson's debt to the gruff lyricism of Peter Brotzmann has never sounded so clear — or so effective.
Jazzwise (UK)

This particular troupe doesn't restrict itself to jazz. In fact, from opening track The Hands, you'd be hard pressed to identify them as such, save for the squawking sax and rhythmic finery. They may be jazz musicians, but their jazz hats aren't always on, and are often being doffed to other genres; most notably rock, psych and blues. Sax powerhouse Mats Gustafsson is known for his multi-genre collaborations, having worked/performed with the likes of Zu, Otomo Yoshihide, Jim O'Rourke and Sonic Youth. Comparisons to Cream and early Black Sabbath are not ill-founded, but perhaps a little misleading. The trio's "rock" aesthetic is made satisfyingly supple by the deft, jazz-borne drumming of Andreas Werliin, and bassist Johan Berthling spins some quite doomy webs, but the overall impression is of something quite apart from these two sets of forebears. To Shave The Leaves... reminds of latter-day Earth, Zu and Bohren & Der Club Of Gore, while Washing Your Heart In Filth has shades of psych, afrobeat, and even a hint of voodoo. Ducking clichés in taking a different approach, Fire! could be seen to be freeing up free jazz. Nice.
Record Collector (UK)

Zu vermuten, Mats Gustafsson hätte FIRE! formiert, um sich vom Garagen-/Action-/Kick Ass-Jazz mit The Thing zu entspannen, wäre ein mächtig großer Irrtum. Das zeigen gleich wieder die ersten Takte des titelgebenden Einstiegs in The Hands (RCD2197), dem sechsten Album des schwedischen Trios. Zugegeben, Andreas Werliin mag im Vergleich zu Paal Nilssen-Love der leichthändigere und straightere Trommler sein, sein Geklicker beim schnellen 'Washing Your Heart In Filth' ist zumindest ein gutes Beispiel dafür, wie feingliedrig er sein Handwerk ausübt. Doch wenn Johan Berthling die Bässe, nämlich ebenfalls E- und Kontra-, bärenruhig statt so over the top traktiert wie Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, ist nicht zuletzt sein Sound der gute Grund dafür, die Glut von Fire! bei Black Sabbath zu suchen. Drum teilen sie den doomigen Duktus mit Saint Vitus und Revelation. 'Up. And Down' mit seiner absteigenden Bassfigur und 'To Shave The Leaves. In Red. In Black.' als schleppender, verzweifelt brüllender Todesmarsch-Bolero liefern dafür schwer wiegende Argumente. Gleich 'The Hands' besticht schon durch die ostinate Repetition, doch erst Gustafssons Röhren gibt dem die herzausreißerischen Krallen und Zähne. Einzigartig, wie er da wieder mit dem Bariton und dem Tenorsax stöhnt und wütet. Aber sich auch bei 'Touches Me With The Tips Of Wonder' ganz versonnen zurücknimmt, während Werliin mit Filz ans Becken rührt. Und 'I Guard Her To Rest. Declaring Silence.' bläst er zuletzt ganz zart und trist als Wiegenlied für eine Leiche, zu schwarzsamtenen Bassnoten und einhändig tickender Totenuhr. Die Poesie der Titel rührt her von Kenneth Patchen. Und für Sophistication zeugen auch Samples wie die verzerrte Frauenstimme bei 'When Her Lips Collapsed', bevor es sich zum langsamen Drehwurm eingroovt, und dann auch komisches Gebabbel als irritierende Intros und Extros. Und klingt das bei '...In Red. In Black.' nicht wie Parolen bei einer Demonstration?
Bad Alchemy (DE)

Förra plattan (i mitt tycke deras allra starkaste) var meditativ, med djupa, långsamma låtar. På "The Hands" koncentrerar sig Mats Gustafsson, Andreas Werliin och Johan Geezer Berthling på tunga riff och en hårdhet i uttrycket som ligger närmare rock än jazz. Ibland känns det skissartat, men kraften övertygar ånyo, som när Gustafssons tenor, baryton- och bassaxofoner tränger in i märgen på stora delar av skivan. Det är enkelt och distinkt. Skott efter skott på
mål. Men Fire! kan även vara trasigt vackra, som på två kortare, psalmliknande låtar. 4/5.
Göteborgsposten (SE)

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