Scandi-rock duo Johnossi played at Oslo Hackney, London on 15 February 2017.
Crowd-pleasing anthemic songs were the order of the day for the Swedish pop-rockers – singer-guitarist John Englebert and drummer Oskar “Ossi” Bonde.
For better or worse, Abba put Sweden on the musical map. The country’s musicians have been trying to get from under that shadow ever since. On the upside, as with most of the other nordic/Scandinavian countries, there is a lot of government support for its pop/rock artists, and rightly so.
In Iceland, for example, music is the second biggest export, after fish. It was through an almost accidental involvement with Ja Ja Ja Nordic Music club in London that I developed a new appreciation for music from the northern lands, showing me that it was far more varied than the regional stereotypes.
Opening act Francobollo are a point in case. The London-based Swedes, with an Italian name, play indie guitar rock that verges on the shambolic. One moment it’s light and carefree, the next they are throwing themselves and their guitars around the stage, playing with an almost childlike abandon of, “what shall we do next”.
In contrast, Johnossi had an air of well-tempered professionalism that comes from playing lots of gigs. The music is acoustic guitar based, but piped through an array of pedals that gave it much more punch than one expects from the instrument.
The addition of semi-acoustics and hollow-bodies helped step it up on the rockier numbers, and Ossi’s pounding percussion added more drive to the overdrive. And John made full use of the stage, and beyond, as he interacted with the female-biased audience that was enthusiastically joining in with every song, except for the new ones, due for release this week.
If you find Icelandic music tends to be too ethereal or Danish death metal a bit too dark, then Johnossi could be the melodic medium that will make you reassess your opinion of Nordic music, and that of Swedish origin in particular.
Blood Jungle is released Friday 17.2.17