Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Freak Kitchen - Land of Freaks: new reissue

 Great news waveriders.  This amazing album, and the entire Freak Kitchen catalog, is being reissued by Lasers Edge.  Land of Freaks is released 5/22.  Dig it and this classic Penfold review.

“Hello everyone.  My name is Chef Penfold.  Welcome once again to ‘Cooking With Penfold’.  I’m very happy you could join me today.  Folks…wow, do we have a great show for you!  If this is the first time you’ve tuned in to the broadcast, allow me to fill you in on what you’ve missed.  At the beginning of last month, we here at ‘Cooking With Penfold’ decided to take a culinary trip around the world, bringing you my favorite recipes from thirty different countries.  Today we’ll be showing you how to make a fantastic casserole hailing from Sweden.  And to make today’s program extra special, I’ll be joined by a very special guest.  He is a true master of the culinary arts, and I am honored to cook beside him.  Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen I present to you the one…the only…Swedish Chef!”

“Hellu Cheff Penffuld, I'm gled tu be-a here-a. Bork Bork Bork!”
“Thank you Swedish Chef.  It truly is an honor to have you as a guest on my show.”
“Theenk nutheeng ooff it. I'm joost here-a tu help.”
“You’re too kind Chef, too kind.”
“Nunsense-a.  Su vhet ere-a ve-a gueeng tu be-a mekeeng tudey?”
“I’m glad you asked Chef.  Today, we are going to be making Janssons Frestelse, otherwise known as Jansson’s temptation.  It is a creamy potato and anchovy casserole, named after a famous Swedish opera singer, which is traditionally served around Christmas time but is eaten year round.”
“Oh guud! Thet is oone-a ooff my fefureetes! Bork Bork Bork!”
“Yes, it’s one of my favorites too!”

“All right, we’ve gathered all of the necessary ingredients.  Arrayed on my cooking table we have 1.2 kg (2½ lb) potatoes, 400 g (14 oz) onions, 375 g (13 oz) spice-cured anchovy filets, 600 ml (3 cups) heavy whipping cream, salt, white pepper, breadcrumbs, and butter.  Now the first step is to peel the potatoes and onions and then cut them into thin strips or slices.  Chef, if you’ll please peel and cut the potatoes I’ll take care of the onions.”
“Off cuoorse-a.”
“Great.  I’m finished slicing the onions.  Now I’m going to gently sauté them in a little butter, but I’m going to make sure not to brown them.  While I’m seeing to that, Chef would you please grease that ovenproof baking dish sitting over there?  Oh, you’re ahead of me I see.  You’re already covering the bottom with a layer of potatoes.  That’s fantastic!  Okay, I’m going to add half of my sautéed onions and half the anchovy filets.  There we go.  Let’s add another layer of potatoes, and then the rest of the onions and filets.  Beautiful!  One last layer of potatoes and the hard part is over. Now, I don’t want to tempt you too much Chef, but do you know what comes next?”
“Zee fletteneeng?”
“That’s right, the flattening of the surface.”
“Oh buy, ooh buy! Bork Bork Bork!”  The Swedish Chef flattens the surface with his customary gusto!
“All right Chef, thank you.  That’s flat enough.  We’re down to the last few steps here folks.  First, we add a few turns of pepper from the mill and just a little salt.  Next, we’re going to pour the cream on until we can almost see it through the potatoes.  That’s it.  Lastly, we’re going to put a few dabs of butter on top along with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs to add some nice texture.  Okay, all that’s left now is to put this dish in the oven where it will cook at four hundred seventy five degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.”

Waveriders, while we wait on the delicious casserole to finish baking, I want to tell you about something else from Sweden that is incredibly exciting.  This non-edible, non-perishable entity I am going to discuss is the band Freak Kitchen.  At this moment there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  Freak Kitchen has established itself as one of my all-time favorite bands, and they released one of my favorite albums of 2010 (it was originally released in October 2009, but I was unable to obtain a copy in the US until 2010).  That album’s name is Land of the Freaks.  Using what I like to think of as incontrovertible evidence, I’m going to emphatically explain why all music fans need to become familiar with this album and its intrinsic greatness.

Freak Kitchen is a trio.  No…scratch that.  Freak Kitchen is a power trio!  The band, brainchild of guitarist/lead vocalist Mattias “IA” Eklundh, has been in existence since the early 1990s.  Their debut album Appetizer came out in 1994.  After three additional albums the original trio disbanded, leaving Mr. Eklundh the task of finding two new bandmates.  Shortly thereafter a new trio was formed with the addition of bassist Christer Ortefors and drummer Bjorn Fryklundh.  Land of the Freaks is the group’s seventh overall album, and the third for version 2.0 of the band.  But enough of the history, let’s talk about what’s most important…the music!

Here is where it gets interesting.  Freak Kitchen is typically classified as a progressive metal band.  I am not going to argue with that.  What I am going to do is flesh out a couple of intricacies that make this particular progressive metal band unique.  First of all it is critical to note that the songs contain as many pop elements as progressive ones.  What does that mean?  Easy.  When you break down one of their songs you will find wacky time signatures, ridiculous playing, grand thematic changes, etc.  But here is the catch.  If you don’t concentrate on uncovering these elements, you won’t notice they exist thanks to the band’s pop sensibilities.  Nothing, no matter how flashy, disrupts the flow of a song.  That means unlike some other progressive metal bands I can name, there is never a moment of mid-song headbanging recalibration.

Second, also stemming from the pop sensibilities, the songs themselves never outstay their welcome.  The longest track on Land of the Freaks is five minutes and forty two seconds.  All of the others end before the five minute mark, most before four minutes.  I’m not trying to imply that epic-length songs are bad (I love quite a few of them myself), but I am saying that I like knowing I don’t have to specifically set aside a half hour to fully enjoy one song.  Third the contributions of Mattias Eklundh, both vocally and on guitar are spectacular, plain and simple.  To say that he is a gifted guitarist is an immeasurable understatement.  His tonality, technicality, timing, and musical IQ are second to none.  The fact that he is also a fantastic vocalist is icing on the cake.  His clean vocals are able to perfectly match the mood of the song whether it calls for all out aggression or heartfelt tenderness.  In a time where a lot of metal bands are choosing the growling option, it’s nice to know who I can turn to when I need a break.  So what about that album?

Land of the Freaks is terminally ill.  “God Save the Spleen”, the opening track, has been my go to neck snapper for well over a year now.  The monstrous guitar tone, devastating main riff, and bottomless groove cast a magic spell upon my person.  I-Can’t-Stop-Listening-To-This-Song!  But let’s not stop there.  Other top-shelf metal anthems on this album include the South-Asian flavored “Teargas Jazz”, the deceptive “Murder Groupie”, and the phenomenally amusing anti-fascist “Honey, You’re a Nazi”.  Feel like something different?  No problem.  Try the transformative “OK” which begins like a ballad before morphing into a rocker, or the straight up acoustic ditty “Do Not Disturb”.  Not good enough?  Fine.  How about “Hip Hip Hoorah”, a danceable metal song.  That’s right…danceable (don’t ask me to demonstrate; I promise you’ll be sorry you did).  What I’m trying to get across is that there is a chasm-wide variety of material on offer here.  No matter what you’re looking for, Land of the Freaks will fulfill your order.  Ooh, looks like our casserole is ready!

“Okay folks, it’s time to take our dish out of the oven.  Chef wait!  That baking dish is going to be HOT!”
“Ehh! I boorned my hunds!
“Chef!?  Are you all right Chef?”
“Oh dun't vurry ebuoot me-a, I'll be-a feene-a. Bork Bork Bork!”
“Thank goodness!  You had me worried with that whole blowing air on your hands thing you have going there.  Well folks, this dish will make six to eight servings.  I hope you enjoy Jannson’s temptation as much as I do.  Thanks again to my honored guest the Swedish Chef for helping me cook today.  Join us next time when we continue our culinary trip around the world, won’t you?  This is Chef Penfold saying goodbye for now.”


Buy here: Land of The Freaks

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