On their sophomore release, Death or Eternal Glory, the Norwegian rockers The Gasölines deliver a blistering repudiation of the decades long decline of raw rock n’ roll. The album is a blunt hammer to overproduction, oversampling, and the autotune of current productions. As Morten Nilsen, key songwriter for the band, makes clear, “I’ve been very specific that I want all instruments and vocals to sound as real and natural as possible. That’s what we wanted to achieve…” This is what defines and inspires The Gasölines: pure authentic sound and song writing. As album title suggests, we are Achilles, the mythical Greek hero given the choice between a long mundane life or dying young in a blaze of glory, a life worth living, a rock n’ roll life. Every song, every lyric, circles back to this idea. If you’ve been longing for a return to a simpler musical time where a single mic is placed in front of a single overdriven guitar cabinet, drum sets have zero electronic pads, and vocals are pure grit and glass, The Gasölines need to be added to your playlist.
The opening track, Rum Runner 500, opens with two thundering crashes from drummer Eiliv Sargrusten before falling into a steady driving force that sets the pace for the rest of the album. There is an urgency to the tempo that is reflective of Death or Eternal Glory’s themes: speed, freedom, and living life outside of social constraints. On Dragstrip Inferno, Adrian Bjerketvedt’s guitar solos come fast and frequent, improvisational in their feel and composition, akin more to setting off a bomb rather than carefully structuring a melody. His playing is about emotion more than thought, and the result is a musical honesty that is rare in a world of multi-tracking and years long production schedules. Truly refreshing. On Raceway War, Sindre Støle demonstrates the fierceness of his vocal range in a surprising way. The deep growls that mark the verses give way to the frenetic higher pitch of the choruses, and it becomes almost melodic. Almost…it is a deceptive simplicity. There is a thoughtfulness to the sonic choices he is making and a rationale to the intentions of the song. It is a perfect unification of idea and energy.
Most of the tracks will leave you in a cloud of carbon monoxide and speed induced vertigo. However, the band does dig into more introspective themes as well. On The Devil in Me, issues of health and psychological struggle blend with the same rapturous energy of Bjerketvedt’s Marshall JMP-1 and the crackle of Nilsen’s overdriven P-Bass. One might venture into Death or Eternal Glory thinking it’s all moonshine and burning rubber, but The Gasölines have a surprising amount of depth for artists who self-describe as focused on fun and rebellion. There is more going on here whether the band knows it or not. The greatest artists create, not plan. The Gasölines embody the Greek hero archetype of the album’s title: feel it, don’t think it. Let the gods speak through you. Or, in this case, let the gasoline speak for you. Now, that is rock n’ roll.
Death or Eternal Glory comes as advertised. Listening to this anarchic opus, you will drive your car faster, drink harder, and give fewer f**ks. The Gasölines have done something quite special here. They have managed to synthesize the heart of 1950s rock ‘n roll, the stylistic violence of 1970’s punk, and the heartbreaking honesty of 1990s grunge with a truly modern hardcore vibe. In the process, they have created something singularly their own. Saying a Norwegian band has created the best American rock album of the year might be an exaggeration…but not by much.