Greenleaf – Nest of Vipers

written by: March 19, 2012
Greenleaf - Nest of Vipers Release Date:

★★★☆☆

Swedish stoner band Greenleaf is no stranger to churning out lengthy, quasi-metal jams during the course of its career. Initially formed as a side project by Tommi Holappa of Dozer, Greenleaf never strayed far from the template he had created with Dozer. With Dozer going on an official hiatus in 2009—and Greenleaf now featuring three of the four members of Dozer—it makes sense that Nest of Vipers blurs the line between the two projects.

Nest of Vipers is Greenleaf’s fifth full-length album, and as such the group’s dynamics are all in sync. It doesn’t hurt that Holappa has spent years working with the members of Greenleaf in various projects, but the album boasts numerous contributions from other metal acts such as Opeth and Lowrider.

Opening with “Jack Staff,” Greenleaf wastes no time laying out the blueprint for Nest of Vipers. It is direct in its execution, avoiding any meandering—a trait that can often creep into much stoner-rock acts. Perhaps most notable about “Jack Staff,” as well as many other songs on Nest of Vipers is how downright catchy the choruses to some of these tracks are. These songs bare the heavy nature that fans of stoner rock would be used to, but with a bit of classic metal homage thrown in for good measure.

Perhaps the best example of this classic metal influence taking hold is on “At the Helm,” where Holappa’s vocals offer up sing-along hooks and the group’s dronier side takes over. It feels akin to something from Black Sabbath’s early years, where it could easily inject a sense of melody atop dark, brooding metal anthems.

While there are moments on Nest of Vipers that prove Greenleaf’s skill, the album also suffers from the confines of its genre. The overarching stoner genre has certain qualities that are attributed to it, and of course, they show up here on Nest of Vipers. This is in no way a bad thing, but it often makes the record run together into one big, midtempo mess. There are tracks that see Greenleaf transcend its genre without bastardizing it, but at the same time, when it defaults to the genre’s key elements, the album sounds like a second-rate version of Mastodon’s The Hunter.

The album closing track, “Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins)” is a slow-burning epic that finds its greatest asset to be the off-kilter and ambitious drumming of Olle Marthans. The song builds slowly for its eight-minute duration, consuming the listener and keeping them engaged, the way any stoner band worth its weight should be able to.

Nest of Vipers doesn’t break any new ground for the genre, but it doesn’t really need to. Greenleaf has found its sound, and by absorbing members of Dozer, it proves that Sweden’s stoner elite still have plenty to offer. At times it is formulaic, but the moments that work show there’s a lot more to this genre than just punishingly repetitive riffs.

Greenleaf – Nest of Vipers tracklist:

  1. “Jack Staff”
  2. “Case of Fidelity”
  3. “Lilith”
  4. “Tree of Life”
  5. “Dreamcatcher”
  6. “At the Helm”
  7. “Sunken Ships”
  8. “The Timeline’s History”
  9. “Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins)”