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Tiebreaker - 2014 - "We Come from the Mountains"

(39:34, Karisma Records)


1.  Early Morning Love Affair 4:24
2.  Nicotine 4:33
3.  Homebound-1 5:34
4.  The Getaway 3:18
5.  Where Can Love Go Wrong 3:59
6.  El Macho Supreme 2:45
7.  Trembling Son 3:43
8.  Homebound-2 5:07
9.  Walk Away 6:13


Thomas Karlsen  vocals 
Eirik Wik Haug  guitars 
Olav Vikingstad  guitars 
Patrick Andersson  bass 
Paal Gunnar Dale  drums 

Prolusion. The Norwegian band TIEBREAKER was formed in 2011, and released an initial EP just one year after their formation. Come 2014 and they launched their debut album "We Come from the Mountains", a production that was met with so much acclaim that they were picked up by the Norwegian label Karisma Records, who reissued the album for an international audience in the fall of 2015.

Analysis. While Karisma Records is first and foremost a label known to release quality Norwegian bands exploring various subsets of progressive rock, they aren't a label exclusively dealing with this kind of music. In this case the band in question doesn't truly have all that much in common with any direction within the progressive rock universe as such, and the closest relation is that this is a band that does look back in time for inspiration. Retro rock is a phrase used for the bands that look back to the 70s for inspiration, and Tiebreaker is a worthy addition to this category of bands. Unlike the greater majority of such bands based in Europe, Tiebreaker appears to hone in on the classic era US bands for inspiration to a much greater extent than any European bands, however, and, at least in that context, they do come across as somewhat more original than most other bands in what has been coined the retro rock scene in Scandinavia. Blues-based hard rock is perhaps the best manner in which to summarize this album, with excellent lead vocals going from melodic and powerful to a more typical raspy delivery, and the undercurrents of the original blues never too far away in any of the compositions with strong hooks, foot-tapping rhythms and vibrant, vintage-era guitar soloing aplenty. A hovering, distanced organ coating is a feature in most of the tracks, and in between vintage-sounding, firm and tight guitar riffs you won't have too many seconds before encountering a plucked guitar motif with a touch of Americana, some tasteful harmonica details or smooth slide guitar details. I'm pretty sure I heard some lap steel on occasion too. When the band isn't going at it with a good mood, tight hard rock affair, at least on one occasion with more cowbell to boot, they tend to shift into a southern rock-oriented style, at times closing in on country rock territories as well. Where the dividing lines go between those two fairly related styles is something I have yet to establish for myself; personally I think Tiebreaker operates on the borders between those two on both of the tracks named Homebound on this album at least. For those with a more progressive rock-oriented taste, I'd guess that those two tracks, alongside concluding piece Walk Away, will be the most interesting of the songs on this production, as the more elegant guitar details featured on those compositions are arguably the ones closest in style to if not progressive then at least psychedelic rock. First and foremost this is a production that seeks an audience outside of progressive rock circles however, but one might suspect that there are a few progressive rock fans also able to appreciate music of this particular nature.

Conclusion. Tiebreaker's debut album "We Come from the Mountains" is a quality production, and marks itself as a somewhat different take on the retro rock movement with its firm emphasis on a US and Americana flavored take on the classic rock of the 70s. This isn't an album to seek out for dedicated progressive rock fans, however, as the traces of that particular style of music are hard if not impossible to find. But if blues-based hard rock with a firm nod towards southern rock and a somewhat lesser one towards country rock is something you might fancy, the album should be a safe and, at times, mesmerizing acquaintance.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 5, 2016
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