Personnel: Tom Hasslan (guitar); Jorgen Mathisen (saxophone); Axel Skalstad (drums).
Audio Mixer: Christian Engfelt.
Recording information: Engfelt & Forsgren Studio.
When Rune Grammofon released Krokofant's dynamite self-titled debut in 2014, the power trio had already become a sensation on Norway's live scene. Their sound, equal parts avant-rock, free jazz, jazz-rock, and metal, was right in line with other bands in the "Nordic Wave" (Hedwig Mollestad Trio, Elephant9, Bushman's Revenge, Moster!, Space Monkey, etc.) but its sonic and musical character were unique. Guitarist Tom Hasslan, drummer Axel Skalstad, and saxophonist Jorgen Mathisen are all excellent improvisers. But dynamic as they are, these individuals understand the delicate balance involved in playing as a trio. On Krokofant 2, the ensemble's jazz and compositional chops are displayed even more prominently than on their initial recording. "C.O.T.A." begins as a riff-charged rocker, but also explores Ornette Coleman's harmolodic theory with its infectious, repetitive, vamp-like melody. It creates ample room for each member to solo. Early on, Hasslan holds it down while Mathisen solos, showcasing what he's learned from everyone from Peter Brötzmann and Sonny Rollins to Pharoah Sanders. Skalstad double- and triple-times with fills, rolls, and explosive rim shots. Hasslan's break shifts toward hard-rocking jazz fusion blues à la Ray Russell. When the band comes back together, it grinds around a doomy, paranoid, Van der Graaf Generator vibe. On "Sail Ahead," the trio takes on South African jazz, combining harmonic ideas from Brotherhood of Breath and Abdullah Ibrahim before taking off for the unknown with knotty metal riffs and modal jazz squall. "Nieu" commences with an Albert Ayler-inspired sax and guitar moan before Hasslan starts laying into sharp, angular blues arpeggios in his departure. When Skalstad enters, he signals a tight trio riff that melds post-bop -- but again through the lyrical lens of Coleman -- Henry Cow, and mathy prog. "The Ship" is groove-oriented. At one point, Hasslan and Skalstad directly reference the interplay between Tommy Bolin and Billy Cobham from "Quadrant 4" on the latter's Spectrum. "Snakedog" comes at jazz-rock via Jimmy Page, John Scofield, and Brand X, with a killer solo from Mathisen. "Watchtower"'s intro could have come from the spiraling middle section of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man," but evolves into an angular yet break-laden, avant-fusion jam before leaving on a darker processional evocation. Krokofant 2 continues to explore the historic progressive music its predecessor did, but this time out the band draws from a wider pool. Krokofant's swaggering creativity is seemingly boundless. They possess both the technical acumen and wide angle vision to stretch any boundaries they choose. This trio bends and shapes inspirational sounds and sources into their own image. Their end game is pure discovery. ~ Thom Jurek