Susanna Flower Of Evil Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

She chooses songs with scant regard for false notions of 'cool' or genre.

Chris Jones 2009

Coming from a lineage of 'icy' (read: an easy label for any female voice that's both pure and hails from somewhere near the Arctic Circle) singers such as Sidsel Endreson or Stina Nordenstam, Norwegian Susanna Wallumrod's timbre and range are naturally given to investing anything she sings with pathos and aching longing. Flower Of Evil, a collection of cover versions (with two originals) has this in spades.

As with her Magical Orchestra's disc, Melody Mountain, she chooses songs with scant regard for false notions of 'cool' or genre. The stripped-back approach, accompanied only by piano, husband/producer Helge Sten on guitar and Pal Hausken on low-key percussion yields far more than the shallower, 'ironic' adaptation of 80s numbers by the odious Nouvelle Vague: the difference being that Wallumrod makes something new of them. Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak (accompanied by Will Oldham), for instance, becomes a mournful folk ballad.

This collection of post-Xmas austerity also takes in Lou Reed, Bonny 'Prince' Billy, Fairport Convention, Nico, Roy Harper, Tom Petty (a delightfully menacing Don't Come Around Here No More), Abba and, best of all, Black Sabbath. Her previous deconstruction of AC/DC and Kiss proved that metal is often the most resilient of genres when it comes to taking off the bonnet and looking at the engine. But chosing Changes from Vol.4 (already a piano-led blues lament) highlights how the Sabs always had an ear for a tune. A whole album of Norwegian nu jazz re-makes of Iommi and co's work is in order, perhaps.

There is a danger of the whole being a little too downbeat for one sitting. And anyone who dares to attempt the already ruined Badfinger classic, Without You, is either very clever or completely mad. The results don't make it entirely clear, but re-tooling it as a country duet (again with Oldham) at least reclaims it from Mariah Carey.

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