It exists. Twelve years after Swedish House Mafia released their debut single, “One” in 2010, the archetypal EDM-era supertrio have released their long-awaited, highly anticipated and highly controversial debut album, Heaven again.
Released today (April 15) via Republic Records, the album is the cornerstone of the band’s extended comeback, launching last July with the first two new singles from Swedish House Mafia in nine years. Billboard were with the band in their native Stockholm last summer as the trio – Steve Angello, Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso – prepared for this comeback, which, along with the album, will deliver a double this Sunday when the band wrap up Coachella’s main stage during a co-headlining set with The Weeknd.
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Drop Heaven again two days before their Coachella show — the band’s first US set since 2018, when they launched a stop/start comeback after a five-year hiatus — is certainly a comeback move. That said, it’s one that also gives festival fans little time to fully familiarize themselves with Heaven again’s 17 songs – although that number also includes previously released singles ‘Redlight’, ‘Lifetime’, ‘It Gets Better’ and ‘Moth To a Flame’. The latter, a sleek and sexed-up collab with The Weeknd, is currently in its 24th week on Dance/Electronic Songs, and is the glue that legitimizes a co-headlining show with both acts.
Both, of course, are also led by superstar manager Sal Slaiby, who delivered two of his biggest artists to the top of the Coachella lineup after Ye dropped the Sunday night slot at the last minute. While Swedish House Mafia – which headlined the festival months before announcing their split in 2012 – had previously floated to the bottom of the lineup in large print unrelated to a day or position in the hierarchy, the Festival organizers theoretically felt that pairing the band with one of modern music’s hottest pop stars as headliners would appease both longtime SHM fans and youngsters who might at this point be more familiar with The Weeknd.
This pairing also answers one of the essential questions Heaven again exists to answer: is the Swedish House Mafia an act of nostalgia, appealing to a now older(ish) generation present for the trio’s ecstatic first round of confetti a decade ago. Or can the band – which created the mold for EDM and have been one of the genre’s most successful bands despite breaking up at the height of their fame – can evolve with the dance scene while continuing to evolve?
“It was just like, ‘What the fuck do we do? How do we get back? Do we just give them another [version of] what have we done before? “, said Ingrosso Billboard last summer regarding the evolution of the band’s sound. “I was like, ‘F–k that; it’s depressing to go back. It’s disgusting to go back. ”
On Heaven againthey indeed avoid going back to the sound that made them famous, swapping their signature big room, maximalist bangers, for songs of a more subtle variety, more mature, but still extremely danceable.
Many may find it hard to believe that more than a decade into their tenure, the band have yet to release an album. It’s true: while 2012 Until now was marketed as an album, it was essentially a mixtape designed to house SHM’s big singles, along with singles from other dance artists as padding. The dance scene at that time certainly didn’t require an LP, because there was no reason (or realistically, the time) to make one when you could circle the world multiple times with six songs. But at the same time Heaven again is a bet in the sense that it finds the band embracing an entirely new sound, long after the dance scene has left the sound pioneered by Swedish House Mafia, it effectively strengthens and expands its artistic legacy from a way of- the classic of the era like the “Greyhound” of 2012 may not be. While the Swedish House Mafia was also famous for its concerts, Heaven again demonstrates with agility that the group does not need pyro and lasers to justify its rightful place as a world leader in dance.
In the big picture, Heaven again accomplishes two key feats: with its 17 tracks, it nearly quadruples the number of songs in the Swedish House Mafia catalog, which previously contained just six tracks. The new LP also entirely eliminates the explosive, catchy, heavy EDM sound that those six previous singles embodied so powerfully, swapping the walls of synth and powerful choruses of hits like “Don’t You Worry Child” for deeper music. in and further across sounds and sub-genres like ambient, house, hip-hop and disco. The exploration parallels the album’s foray deeper into the inner realities of three guys who, like all of us, are older and wiser now than when they started.
Of course, mainstream artists consciously moving beyond EDM isn’t a new phenomenon. Calvin Harris did it effectively on Funk Wav Rebound Vol. 1. Avicii’s posthumous album, 2019 Tim, featured smaller, tighter productions than mega-hits like “Levels” or “Wake Me Up.” Hardwell debuted his new sound, a kind of supercharged stage techno, last month at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami. As house and techno have become the preeminent sounds of mainstream dance music over the past half-decade, going back would not only have been “depressing” and “disgusting” indeed, but out of step with current trends. .
Not to say that Heaven again is particularly trendy: the album contains none of the milquetoast house or paint-by-numbers techno that is currently prevalent on the scene. Instead, the album gives the impression that Axwell, Ingrosso and Angello fully adapt to their interests and influences – house (and in particular gospel house), hip-hop, ambient, techno, IDM – and become as weird and experimental as they want to be, and perhaps weirder and more experimental than the structures of EDM allowed during their initial foray. If there is a unifying philosophy on the album, it is that of meticulousness. The Swedish house mafia are known to be perfectionists, which, according to Ingrosso, “also kills us sometimes. But for us, it has to be a certain way. And that’s why it takes time.
More than a decade after their conquest of the dance scene, the depth and subtlety of Heaven again reflects that the time taken was worth it. Here are our picks for seven of the most essential tracks on Heaven again.
“Time” (with Mapei)
The first voice heard on the album is that of Swedish singer Mapei, who – perhaps in a nod to the time it took to make this album – declares in rich baritone that “it takes time to heal, it takes time to know where your heart is. , takes time to be real. The production here is alternately stripped down and lush IDM, not so far off from some of the Four Tet/Jamie xx works. And the drop here actually works in reverse, with the song shrinking in size to the same spot where previous SHM tracks exploded into total frenzies.
The most ominous track on the album is composed mostly of a synth buzzsaw and a horn played at an ominous pitch before the entry of a kick drum, and the track then pivots into a hip-hop production – a a nod to Angello’s longtime love of the genre – before ending in doom cacophony. “You always want people to like your music, otherwise you wouldn’t be playing it to them,” Ingrosso said. Billboard last summer. “But the vision of the album, for me, it’s not really important if it sells 400 million [copies] or 10. Definitely Heaven again will move units well above that base number, but Ingrosso’s sentiment – talking to them about doing what suits their vision and makes them happy – is underscored with “Mafia” and some of the other tracks from more experimental album like this.
“Frankenstein” (with A$AP Rocky)
It’s alive! This long-running collaboration between SHM and A$AP Rocky – which was road tested on SHM’s 2019 tour and is the subject of long and speculative Reddit threads – comes to fruition via heavy bass, high hats, a persistent whistle and thunder claps. A BPM spike out of nowhere kicks off a particularly spirited second half, during which A$AP Rocky talks about being “in the mosh pit, suited to f–k up s–t” hit with particularly powerful power. bully.
“Don’t Go Crazy” Feat. Seinabo Sey
SHM’s disco version also features some serious Daft Punk, via edgy chrome synths and lush vocals from Swedish singer Seinabo Sey. Again, this song narrows to where the downfall would formally be, making room for the vocals and then a dark pulsing synth, which gets progressively faster as it propels the anthem from the hours of points to its hypnotic peak.
The deep gospel house embrace of this album appears again with “Calling On,” a dark, euphoric whirlwind built around a rich vocal sample from gospel great Cassietta George’s 1967 recording of “In the Garden “. “I come to the garden alone,” George sings as the sirens rise dramatically around her in a peak that will likely become a standard singing moment as fans become more familiar with these songs.
Finally, a piece of Swedish House Mafia for the after parties. This rhythmic and throbbing “Home” is accompanied by a piano chord, discreet scintillating percussion and a moaning vocal sample that suffers from emotion. Like “Mafia”, this isn’t the most obvious or catchy song on the album, but it’s one of the most subtle and sophisticated, and the best overall.
While SHM previously orchestrated an emotional punch with big sky-plane pump melodies for you, Heaven againThe closing track rips with more nuance, via alternate piano chords paired with solo vocals, an exultant gospel choir chanting “for you!” and increasingly effervescent productions that swell completely, much like the lump in your throat as it hits that sentimental sweet spot. The band say they wrote this one for the fans – and while the lyrics don’t say it outright, there’s a message about the passage of time here. Bright, loud and often relentlessly optimistic, there was a naivety to EDM in its insistence that everyone raise their hands to have a good time, while rarely acknowledging the often more painful realities of daily existence than the EDM scene served as an escape from. That attitude is dropped on this one, with emotional peaks here too tinged with melancholy in a nod to the dichotomy of life, the maturity of the band, their sound, their fans and the dance scene. herself.
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