Written by: TL on 02/12/2013 14:40:38

When bands in Denmark occasionally let their guard drop and talk about how hard it is to 'make it' in any stretch of the phrase here, one needs to look no further than Copenhagen quintet Surfact for proof. Despite exploding into the eye of the public with the song "Soulslide" appearing on both TV and radio charts in around 2007, the expected exponential increase in interest from both fans and labels never really solidified, and despite subsequent experiments with meshing poppy electronics into the band's grungy core, you never got the feeling that the band was happening the way they were clearly trying hard to do. After five years of such adversity, the band's new album "Unamplified" then, is an effort to regroup. Featuring eleven acoustic re-arrangements of songs from the band's previous albums, the album is an attempt on behalf of the band to find their way back to their essense and to the love of their music that inspired them to reach for the big leagues in the first place.

Ignorant or careless of the fact that grunge has been considered dead and buried for ages, Surfact initially rose like a parallel to the previous decade's Dizzy Mizzy Lizzy, who - if I'm honest - were basically Denmarks much-beloved version of Alice In Chains. Similarly, Surfact channeled both Pearl Jam and the later post-grunge bands (like Cold and Fuel) that tread water most succesfully when the genre's popularity waned, yet merging their sound with glossy modern electronic tricks on their most recent records in an effort to have at least some novelty. It's no surprise then, that the back-to-the-roots acoustics of "Unamplified" does away with any confused infusions of electropop in an attempt to regain grasp of something authentic and vulnerable. Despite lacking volume in his low end, singer Jesper Storgaard dominates the soundscape, crooning neatly and believably in his lighter-than-Eddie-Vedder sounding vocals, while the acoustic guitars and minimalist drumming paints melancholic soundscapes behind a dozen of the band's most recognizable refrains. It's hard to not immediately think of the first record Tim Christensen did when he went solo and mostly acoustic after the break-up of Dizzy Mizz Lizzy, because the projects feel similar in multiple aspects.

To Surfact's credit it must be said that the acoustic re-arrangements are fairly intricate and diverse, sparing us from cookie-cut, chord-based pointlessness, yet it's hard to feel that it's not still the same melodies at the heart of the songs that make or break them, the same way as they did on the prior albums. "All Night Overload" and "Soulslide" thus stand out immediately, soon followed by completely stripped "Song Of Remorse", by "Higher Ground" and by the countrified "Absolutely Shameless", while a cut like the sentimental "Atmosphere" unfortunately mopes about in aimless progressions that will likely fail to impress anyone who hasn't connected with its grief-stricken subject material beforehand.

Admittedly however, while Surfact succeed at sounding more up close and real on here than on some of their past material, the distance from their least- to their most interesting song is still relatively short, meaning that while the former are decent enough in their own right, the latter noticeably lack the special edge needed to send Surfact to where they've always wanted to go. They're a little too predictable, they're not really committed to truly sounding any dangerous in their lower ends and inescapably, they sound a bit dated in their grungyness in 2013. Consequentially, "Uamplified" is unlikely to be the record that breaks Surfact to the larger audience they want so badly, because it continues to cast them as a band that just doesn't quite have the flair, in terms of both ambition in their soundscape and power in their songwriting. That said, the album will likely go down a treat with proven fans, and with people who are generally nostalgic for sentimental 90's post-grunge, and if it's the spark that's needed for Surfact to revitalise their efforts moving forward, then maybe that's all the justification it needs?

Download: All Night Overload, Soulslide, Higher Ground
For The Fans Of: Tim Christensen, Dizzy Mizz Lizzy, Pearl Jam, R.E.M, Silverchair

Release Date 17.10.2013
Trechoma Records

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