Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen is a guitar heroine for our times. Born in the Norwegian town of Ålesund in the early 80s, she first picked up her mother’s nylon-strung acoustic guitar at the age of ten. As an exploratory teenager she dug deep into her father’s jazz and rock record collection and translated a biography of Jimi Hendrix for a school project.
Then she was given an electric guitar and amplifier as a confirmation present, and never looked back. But there’s nothing pious about her music. Her molten, overdriven guitar sound is forged in the same fiery furnace as Hendrix, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, then plunged into a steaming vat of free jazz in the Sonny Sharrock/Fred Frith mould.
In tracks like ‘The Rex’ and ‘Lake Acid’, you’ll hear the megalithic riffology of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Rock ’N’ Roll’, but with an agility and intensity peculiar to the dark Northern regions where she and her bandmates were raised.
Her drummer Ivar Loe Bjørnstad grew up in a Norwegian hillbilly town where the kids taste moonshine before they’ve started school. And bassist Ellen Brekken was raised on a farm and is extremely fascinated by trains – which, given her impeccable timekeeping, seems highly appropriate. ‘Now we are kind of married’, says Hedvig.
All Of Them Witches follows the Trio’s previous Rune Grammofon release, Shoot! (2011) and, like labelmates Elephant9 and Grand General, represent a thrilling new progressive wave of Norwegian avant rock/free metal energy. This latest batch of electrifying instrumentals was recorded live in the island environment of Ocean Sound studio, a grass-roofed wooden barn on the edge of the Norwegian Sea fitted with state of the art equipment, where the Trio could swim in the freezing waters before breakfast and stretch their gaze out to the horizon in mid-take.
It’s no surprise that such widescreen surroundings shoul1st d give rise to epic concepts, and the title of first track ‘Sing, Goddess’ takes its name from the opening line of Homer’s Iliad. Inspired by the wide open skies, ‘Shawshank’ and ‘Ghrá Rúnda’ are more reflective pieces, bathed in controlled feedback. ‘We have named our pieces of music after things we care for, matters we think about, or feelings that we carry,’ says Hedvig. ‘Some of them are dedicated to people we love, art we like, experiences we have had.
Some of the titles are humorous and with one specific meaning to us, and some are more connected to the title All Of Them Witches, like ‘Achilles’ and ‘Code Of Hammurabi’ – the ancient law that, among other things, describes how witches should be treated.’ Witches have historically been victims of persecution, but as Hedvig reminds us, black magicians can also hold the reins of power. ‘There is so much change in the world,’ she says, ‘and this is nothing new for our age. There are always people screwing up, for reasons we don’t understand, driving their country and its people over the edge.
Too many people have too little, because a few people need to have much more than enough. Witches now are the state leaders that let their people suffer; witches then were both the ones thrown into the sea by law, and the very ones throwing them.’
Personnel Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen – guitar, Ellen Brekken – bass, Ivar Loe Bjørnstad – drums
1. Sing, Goddess
2. The Rex
3. Lake Acid
1. The New Judas
2. Code Of Hammurabi
3. Indian Driving
5. Ghrá Rúnda