In 2007, when this Swedish three piece was known as Mark 0, they put out a demo recording which presented them in an alternative funk-metal mode.  Influences from Incubus were fairly obvious, as was the fact the band had clearly spent a lot of time listening to Foo Fighters and other great bands.  While they appeared to be musically tight, they lacked a sound of their own.  By the release of 2009’s ‘Paper Tigers’ EP, Mark 0 had become Sleeping Dervish and any desire to become the next Incubus had vanished – the late 90s funk-metal influences were swept aside in favour of a late 90s/early 00s jangly guitar based, alt-rock vibe.

For their 2010 EP ‘The Water Scared’, the band explores similar musical territory.  As before, their sound features traces of many different late 90s alternative rock bands, but there are not any really clear, over-riding influences.  ‘Cover Your Tracks’ has a slightly funky shuffle during the verses, although this is purely down to drummer Vanja Hadsic’s playing.  Andreas Hosio’s bass work refrains from stepping into the realms of funk, but behind the Goo Goo Dolls styled guitar work, his bass sound has an almost lead presence at times.  Gustav Classon’s vocals are clean and well-suited to the band’s general sound.  Despite the band’s style and overall volume, his voice never gets lost among the barrage of guitars and drums; for a self-financed release, the production is spot on.

‘Son of a Trader’ continues with more chiming guitars and similarly sharp production.  On first listen, this appears to be one of the EP’s weaker numbers, as it doesn’t quite have the urgency of the opener, but repeated listens prove the chorus to be something of a slow-burner.  As it stands, it’s a solid track, with Clarsson’s late 90s style guitar work providing just enough presence to keep things flowing.   The title cut opens with an almost circular guitar riff before settling into fairly predictable alt-rock territory.  Clarsson can be heard in good vocal form once again, and Hadsic’s crashy approach to the drums gives the number plenty of backbone. However, lacking a decent hook, this ends up in the category of ‘filler material’.

‘I!’ presents something a little edgier, as a crashy riff leads into a piece of music featuring a rolling bass part, which is almost completely buried underneath a wall of guitars.  Clarsson’s vocals feature a harder edge than before and a simple, repetitive chorus hammers the point home.  A mid section makes best use of a clean and angular guitar sound, moving the band away from semi-noisy indie-rock into a more progressive, Tubelord style territory.  This mid-section sounds like it was written separately and then wedged into the end piece, but still manages to work effectively.  This angrier approach carries into the following number ‘Are We Done?’ which has a great live sound – the lead guitars ringing out above a heavy rhythm.  Overall, it doesn’t bring much new to Sleeping Dervish’s mix of sounds and influences, but its lead guitar riff attracts attention with its bell-like clarity.

The closing number ‘Everything Is Sound’ shows Sleeping Dervish at their best.  Following a fuzzy opening riff with a heavy influence from early Placebo, the band find a busy, slightly off-centre groove which features an interesting drum pattern; this in turn encourages moments of spiky interplay from the bass.  The alt-rock riff provides ample backing for an okay chorus.  It’s an example of the band’s sound at its most angry, a feeling definitely helped by the pointed bass work.

The songs themselves may not always show a great musical range, but listeners should recognise the work of a tight musical unit throughout this release.  ‘The Water Scared’ is a release which doesn’t always hit the mark, but when it does (as on ‘Everything Is Sound’) there’s a feeling that Sleeping Dervish are a talented bunch.

February 2010