The Gems - Phoenix

by Kevin Wierzbicki

The legend of the phoenix, about a bird that constantly rejuvenates itself, rising from its own ashes, is part of Greek mythology. When it comes to the case of The Gems, the Swedish all-woman trio that named their debut album Phoenix, there's no myth involved. The band --- singer Guernica Mancini, guitarist and bassist Mona "Demona" Lindgren and drummer Emlee Johansson --- have risen from the ashes of their previous band Thundermother to present a very strong first full-length offering. As you would imagine then, the subject of overcoming adversity is a recurring theme here, from the brief opening track "Aurora" where Mancini advises "From the ashes of pain, we rise up again" over a minimalist music bed, to the anthemic "Queens" where the ladies salute those who paved the way for their positive attitudes, to the hard rocking and Led Zeppelin-recalling "Send Me to the Wolves" which reflects the strength of a woman who's not afraid to stand up to those trying to hold her down. That being said, the gals just plain rock hard on cuts like the driving "Silver Tongue" with its fierce guitar riffing from Lindgren and powerful vocals from Mancini, "Running" where Johansson lays down a pummeling beat, and "P.S.Y.C.H.O.," a punk-tinged rocker that sounds inspired by The Runaways. One of the hardest-hitting cuts is title song "Like a Phoenix;" the song finds the trio hitting on all cylinders and was a big hit in Germany last summer. There are a few understated moments here too like the beautiful interlude "Maria's Song," an instrumental featuring violinist Maria Jern, the aching ballad "Ease Your Pain" and an acoustic reprisal of "Like a Phoenix" that retains its ferocity in the stripped-down mode.


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