What do you get if you combine the cosmic djent hookiness of TesseracT, mid-70s King Crimson, Vola, and Karnivool with the quirky lyricism and vocal characteristics of Björk? Well, you’d probably get something a lot like Swedish progressive stoner/doom/folk/psychedelic rock band Gaupa (Lynx). Led by frontwoman Emma Näslund, the quintet proved to be one of the country’s most exciting newcomers with their 2020 debut LP, Feberdröm (Fever Dream). Now, they’ve returned with an arguably more enticing and daring full-length sophomore sequence: Myriad. Delightfully hypnotic and mysterious, it further solidifies the group as an artfully aggressive project that no metal fan should miss.
Since forming a few years ago, Gaupa have earned plenty of acclaim and exciting opportunities. For instance, they played at Scandinavia’s biggest rock festival, Sweden Rock, in 2018. Plus, they signed with Nuclear Blast Records—home of As I Lay Dying, Symphony X, Testament, and In Flames, among many other major acts—in 2021. At the time, Jens Prüter (the head of A&R at Nuclear Blast Records Europe) remarked that the group “tear[s] down boundaries between genres – just for the sake of art.” Indeed, Myriad shuffles through styles with commendable deftness and boldness, but it never seems incoherent. On the contrary, it paints Gaupa as a highly focused yet adventurous ensemble with equal amounts of conventional and experimental appeal.
Opener “Exoskeleton” firmly establishes Gaupa’s musical playground via its hodgepodge of sludgy guitar riffs, quick rhythms, and soulful singing. Eventually, more feisty guitar licks and percussive shake-ups evoke Queens of the Stone Age and Porcupine Tree (circa Fear of a Blank Planet, in particular); all the while, Näslund’s bewitching melodies and saintly backing harmonies can’t help but captivate. In total, then, the track is a really intriguing synthesis of accessible foundations and avant-garde theatrics, and it perfectly sets up the rest of the record.
On that note, follow-up “Diametrical Enchantress” aims a bit more toward grunge and Southern rock, to the point that its chorus must be an [un]intentional homage to Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.” Later, “Ra,” “Mammon,” and “My Sister is a Very Angry Man” tap into the same sort of sleek aggression, with the latter’s explosive ending jam highlighting the skills and chemistry of drummer Jimmy Hurtig, bassist Erik Sävström, and guitarists David Rosberg and Daniel Nygren.
Myriad is a terrific record from beginning to end. By fusing several considerably different approaches, the album—like Feberdröm before it—tastes like a wonderfully eclectic stew. It’s often simultaneously antagonistic, poetic, and unpredictable, with enough fully realized deviations to ensure that none of it gets stale. Best of all, it’s slightly playful, too, so it demonstrates humility beneath the band’s unquestionable songwriting and compositional skills. With any luck, Myriad will finally push Gaupa further into the prog metal limelight.