The Swedish pop rock group Kent has been releasing music for several years, earning a huge following in Europe and a cult like legion of fans in the U.S. Their latest album, Vapen & Ammunition (their fifth full length release) is a well-crafted example of a group reaching the pinnacle of a sound that it has become known for.
It seems as if Kent wanted to trim some of the fat evident on its previous efforts. Instead of including a mix of melody and grungy guitar work (which on all of Kent's old albums left at least a few tracks to be undesired), Vapen & Ammunition focuses on a beautiful melodic sound which is really what Kent does best. By doing this the group made a thoroughly enjoyable and listenable CD for a couple of reasons. First of all, the album never falls into a rut, while it may at times get repetitive the quality is consistent. Secondly, Joakim Berg's vocals never get tiresome. His voice is able to soar through songs instead of competing with heavy guitar and drums. This allows for his native Swedish vocals to take on a role similar to those of Jon Thor Birgisson's in Sigur Ros's masterpiece Ágætis Byrjun.
While Kent never comes close to the highs (or even lows) of Sigur Ros, the two albums are similar in the sense that they both display a band that understands its vocals are as strong an instrument as any others used on the CD. At no other point is this more evident on the album than on the song 'Socker' (#7), where the Berg's voice gently rides in the wake of melodic rock.
If there is one major criticism of Vapen & Ammunition its that it isn't new territory for Kent or any band for that matter. This is simply a band reaching and maintaining a high displayed on its other albums. The great majority of this CD is comprised of a type of music that was already created and better executed seven years ago on The Bends by Radiohead. This is a shame because the one track on Vapen & Ammunition where Kent really goes beyond anything they've done before is easily the best on the album. This track, 'Elite' (#9), uses a twangy even soulful guitar and gospel-like choir to make an uplifting and shimmering song that may very well be the best ever composed by Kent. This, however, is the only track that sees Kent even trying to push its own boundaries.
Who says an album has to be fresh to be good? Not me, and certainly not Kent. Vapen & Ammunition is a must-have for any Kent fan and is a very solid work that any admirer of the tidal wave of bands who try to re-create the mid-nineties works of Radiohead will want to check out.