Finnish throwback proggers SAMMAL have a purity about them that makes what they do feel welcoming despite their inherent affinity of the arcane. Similar to but not exactly like WITCHCRAFT, what SAMMAL does is sweep their listeners into their own interpretation of sixties and early seventies British prog, performed in their native tongue.
Following their self-titled debut from last year comes their simply stated "No. 2" EP, which the band states is a standalone piece as precursor to a future LP due out in the later part of 2014. By all means, the five songs (including a cover of APHRODITE'S CHILD's "Magic Mirror", translated as "Peilin Taikaa") are on the looser side than SAMMAL's first round. Three are re-recordings of old demo tracks, while "Vankina Varisten" is a new cut. "No. 2" focuses more on projecting warm and cozy tones with only a few heavy blasts (found mostly on "Vankina Varisten" and "Tuuli Kuljettaa"), maintaining an inviting, if raw sit-down with the band.
As SAMMAL played these tracks live, the projection largely feels undercooked in a good way. "Vankina Varisten" is probably the densest song on the EP and as it catches full stride, Jura Salmi's guitar solo plinks happily overtop the jam-dealt riffs that serve as its foundation. Juhani Laine gathers plenty of attention with his thrumming organ pleats on "Vankina Varisten" until the guitar solo section sets up for an abrupt halt.
The "Peilin Taikaa" cover is, naturally, sung in Finnish, and it's easy to get into with vocalist Jan-Erik Kiviniemi's enthusiastic delivery. Juhani Laine's squashing organ blats serve the banging chords of "Peilin Taikaa" (or "Magic Mirror", if you prefer) with much of the same mod-based toying effects as (THE) INTERNATIONAL NOISE CONSPIRACY's Sara Almgren did for much of their eleven year run. SAMMAL makes "Peilin Taikaa" an easy grab with its chunky riffs and clumping beats from Tuomas that are only drowned incrementally by the organs and Jan-Erik Kiviniemi's overhangs. He's busy having so much fun, you'll hardly care about him vaulting occasionally to the front of the mix.
"Neito Maan" might be the grooviest number on "No. 2" with its laidback rolls and psychedelic jerkouts behind the scaled-back organ drives. As the song winds along, SAMMAL introduces some background vocal fills, strings and chimes to give "Neito Mann" more earthbound textures before ripping away with the strings in tow like a folk metal hike of STEPPENWOLF. The changeover isn't quite sloppy as it is crude in execution, but the payoff is Jura Salmi's blaring guitar solo that feels almost spontaneous.
Trailing behind it like a Finnish concoction of THE GUESS WHO and KING CRIMSON is "Tuuli Kuljettaa", which begins on a dreamy psych swoon before SAMMAL drops all of their hammers. Running for about a minute through a meaty plow, the song yet again changes tones with a collision of soft and heavy measures through the final stanza that summons the EP's apex. Relaxed bass lines from Lasse Ilano and organ prods drive the melodic closer, "Tahdelle Kuoelmaan", but not before SAMMAL sprinkles a few extracurricular guitar and key pleats, setting up for an acoustic outro that feels as earnest as everything else about "No. 2".
SAMMAL hardly shows all of their cards on "No. 2", but that's to their credit. This EP is a nifty if sometimes tattered bit of escapism that does everything its creators wanted from it. It sets itself apart and doesn't so much create expectation for their next album as it does curiosity.