Album review: Franklin Zoo “Red Skies”

in New Releases

5 hard rockin’ guys from Copenhagen who will sweep you off your feet (album below: Images from Franklin Zoo’s recent show at Loppen, Christiania, Copenhagen)

A feeling of grunge creeps over me, as I listen to the latest release from Danish Franklin Zoo. The Copenhagen 5 piece has released their international debut on Mighty Music, one of Denmarks leading metal/hardrock labels, who is also responsible for giving us Black Oak County, Meridian, and Souls Of Tide from Norway.

Franklin Zoo’s inspiration draw from bands like Soundgarden and Nirvana, easily comes to mind when listetning to Red Skies. Especially track three “Burning Man”, brings out fond memories of Soundgarden’s “Fell On Black Days” because of its guitar riff. Performing support duties for none other than Papa Roach, this is a band going places.

Although heavier sounding than their inspirations, which includes icons like David Bowie, Nick Cave, Soundgarden, Nirvana and Mastodon, these are still recognisable throughout the somewhat short 8-track album. Those 8 tracks are excellent each and every one and equally complex, so it doesn’t feel short, which is quite an achievement.

Franklin Zoo plays melancholic hard rock appealing equally to heart and perception. It clinically investigates honesty and the honest expression for the sake of themselves, and the music reflects the conditions brought about by the need for the band members to express life’s downsides: loss and loneliness. It’s powered by ambivalent fear. Fear of incapability but also fear of success. It’s an aggressive, solid and powerful expression.

There is a fast pace and powerful punchy chords over the whole album. The production is professional and thick, and front man Rasmus Revsbech on vocals can easily handle everything from a whisper to a scream. The title track, “Red Skies”, has a quiet start with an agonising and raw sound throughout, with heavy and slow drums, and scattered with heavy riffs.

“It’s Not Me” reminds me of more Soundgarden, or Chris Cornell at the very least. This is a good thing. Since the first time I saw Soundgarden live, 20 years ago, I’ve never really heard a singer sound this much like Cornell, while keeping his own signature. Bravo!

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My favourite on this album is track 6, “Tangled Pain”. Starting with a thick and super heavy slow-moving intro, it glides into a tortured vocal that is gleaming with painful memories. While the choruses and bridges in the song contain almost the same chords, Franklin Zoo still makes it sound different enough, while still fitting with the rest of the song, to make it work to perfection.

Speaking of perfection – These five guys are extraordinary musicians! The songs are filled with all kinds of awesome little fills and thrills, and the heavy expression never becomes too much, as it is balanced beautifully with equal amounts of sensitivity and slow whispers, and screaming sharp heavy riffs. I know I’ve said it a few times before, but that Cornell-like vocal and the fact that I think about Soundgarden, makes me say that this is one of the most solid albums coming out of Denmark in recent years.

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Red Skies” was mainly made, because the band needed to make it.

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“Red Skies” is the result of an artistic need. The main composers in the band all have an upbringing denoted by elements of desertion, loss, substance abuse and melancholia, where music became a necessity to mentally survive. Although safe, none have come out of this unscathed and today they all have an innate need to express the painful sensation of the chronic lostness in their adult existential foregrounds. Creating a new riff, chords and lyrics thus become a piece of themselves, which they share as a bittersweet gift hoping to touch upon or even comfort the listener. Trying to let the pain be empowering instead of debilitating. The music grants the opportunity to say what one is not otherwise able to say or ashamed of being. Thus “Red Skies” is the child of the members’ individual histories and addiction to music that investigates and contains the nuances of existential misery. And this can be heard; they never stop to strive for purity nor look away when curiously and painfully investigating themselves as an existential object. It is an album, which has caused a lot of pain to create and which the band is of course aware of how is received. But first and foremost: It is a record they have made for their own sake. The prestige of it is received does not make the artistic process more or less necessary for the members; it just makes the reception more or less successful, which is not the most important.

“Red Skies” was recorded in Vibe Factory, Denmark, at John Paul Jones’ old Neve console in collaboration with Jacob Bredahl (Hatesphere, The Kandidate etc.) whose trademark is the instrumental music and authenticity. He thereby stands as guarantor of an honest and solid expression of several bands like The Psyke Project, By The Patient, Sea etc. and knows what feels right as a listener and a producer. With that background, it was an obvious choice to work together, since this philosophy is essential to Franklin Zoo.

Franklin Zoo is Søren Dabros and Daniel Hecht on guitar and backing vocals, Lars Bahr on drums and backing vocals, Anders Rune Hansen on bass and Rasmus Revsbech on lyrics.

Franklin Zoo can be found on most streaming services, and on CD.

Online, they can be reached on their Facebook page, and on their website. Other places include YouTube and their label, Mighty Music.

Based in Denmark, Jakob shoots portraits, conceptual photography, bands and rock concerts. Having played lead guitar in several bands, he combines his love for music, with his passion for photography.

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