Psychopunch- Smakk Valley

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Thursday, January 31, 2013

Despite the fact that they have been a band for 14 years, I have to admit that Swedish rock band Psychopunch is not one I had ever come across. But the upcoming Smakk Valley is their tenth studio effort, so it’s evident that they’ve found success in Europe even though I haven’t seen their name mentioned much in the United States. Psychopunch pulls from a slew of influences that will instantly feel familiar, as they touch upon punk, country rock, and even old school rock ‘n roll. It’s a combination of styles that gives the album a great amount of variation, but the songwriting isn’t consistent and as a result not all of the tracks have the same level of hooks.

While the songs may be all over the place in terms of sound, there’s always some sort of rock base to tie them all together. The majority of the songs fall into the melodic punk rock category as the riffs often go for simple yet catchy hooks that remind me of bands like The Offspring as well as some of punk’s originators. But there’s more to Psychopunch than just your standard 90s/2000s era punk, as they sometimes dive into numbers that are closer to country/blues rock and rock ‘n roll that has high energy leads. I did find that the amount of variety over the fourteen songs was a positive aspect of Smakk Valley, as it made it hard to predict what the band would do next and it never felt as though they were content with simply repeating the same riff. But at the same time, this also led to the songwriting feeling a bit inconsistent. When the guitars took a slightly rougher turn and the band upped the intensity level their hooks got a lot stronger, while some of the softer ones came and went without truly leaving an impact.

The vocals are able to deliver a dynamic performance that changes based on the style the instrumentals are going for. What this means is that when the group dials things down and goes for softer country tinged rock ‘n roll the lead singer follows suit and drops to a mellower singing style, but kicks up the intensity and has a rawer sound on the up-tempo numbers. Like the instrumental arrangements, I enjoyed Psychopunch the most when the vocals had a bit of edginess to them but did find that the group’s singer was still able to offer a standout performance throughout. There were a few sections where the vocals got a slightly too whiny for my personal tastes though, and this is one of the main reasons that the softer tracks didn’t grab me as much as the others.

Smakk Valley attempts to touch upon just about every subgenre of rock ‘n roll and punk rock that it can, and while the level of variety is a positive aspect the band isn’t able to consistently hook listeners. There is enough here to make Psychopunch worth a few spins depending on how much you enjoy this type of modern day melodic punk rock, but most people will be likely to find that this effort is merely decent. Since this was my first time being exposed to the group’s material I’d be curious to see where this ranks amongst their other nine albums though, as there are hints of greatness that pop up on certain tracks.

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