Krokofant were originally formed as a duo when Tom Hasslan (guitars) and Axel Skalstad (drums) met in a guitar shop in Kongsberg, a town in southern Norway well known for its annual jazz festival. Saxophonist Jørgen Mathisen was invited to join them and their self-titled debut album was released in 2014. A further two albums followed in 2015 and 2017, and for the fourth, Q, they added guest musicians Ståle Storløkken and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. This seemed like a perfect fit and subsequent reviews were very positive.
It is this expanded version of Krokofant that returns for new album Fifth in a natural progression for the band, indeed in the liner notes for Q, David Fricke said that “this is not just another novelty guest project”. This statement appears to be born out by the fact the band were so happy with Q that they chose to do a follow up straight away, and here it is.
Krokofant are excellent exponents of jazz rock, but when some people hear that term they just turn and run or say “No, no, no!”. This is a shame – a tragedy even – as this genre has so much to offer musically. The chosen style of Krokofant is on display again on this album, not entirely jazz but yet not just straight ahead rock; there is a wonderful energy within their music, just suitably contained with that ever present threat of the sound exploding from your speakers. Sharp and controlled with an almost improvised feel, this is music to entertain, entice and create interest.
The album consists of four new tracks penned by Tom Hasslan, ranging between just under eight and twelve minutes, with a total running time of thirty-nine minutes. They open things with the tongue-in-cheek Watcher of the Fries, but that twist on the Genesis classic is where the similarity ends. Led by the saxophone, the song starts to tread the jazz rock line so well, but there are twists and turns here; at around two-and-a-half minutes we get a King Crimson vibe, or to be more accurate, their ProjeKcts era. The ideas are packed in to this opener giving a good indicator of what is to come.
Big Heavy Thing follows, and at around two-minutes in the pace picks up, driven with almost Jon Lord-style keyboards. The drums propel the song forward at a furious pace, supported by some great bass work when the sax comes in around half-way through. This draws the song back slightly, but it continues to pulse with alternating controlled and frenzied sax.
As you try to draw breath, bang! Five Flat Pennies starts with a slow, heavy feel, then the sax joins in and at around a minute-and-a-half the pace picks up and the mood lightens. There is some great guitar after four-minutes or so, ably supported by bass and drums. The guitar continues to feature with the sax returning for the ending, creating an enjoyable and at times smooth ride. There’s a great ebb and flow to this song.
Then we are at the last track, Pretty Frypan. It’s the longest here (at twelve minutes), but such is its construction that it never feels like it. It begins with the organ which introduces a slow groove, defined by the bass and drums. Keyboards continue to wash over proceedings before the guitar joins in, along with the sax, the pace picking up from half-way.
What Krokofant have provided us with is an album that is intense and heavy at times but still with melody running through it. They have effectively married together different style and textures to create a unique and enjoyable listening experience. Challenging for some, no doubt, but there is so much to hear and enjoy with depth and layers of sound. If you want to experience jazz rock at its finest, you won’t go far wrong starting here.
01. Watcher of the Fries (7:40)
02. Big Heavy Thing (10:33)
03. Five Flat Pennies (9:03)
04. Pretty Frypan (12:04)
Total Time – 39:21
Tom Hasslan – Guitars
Axel Skalstad – Drums
Jørgen Mathisen – Saxophones
Ståle Storløkken – Keyboards
Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – Bass
Record Label: Rune Grammofon
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 24th September 2021