Certainties and Doubts
by Scott Hefflon
I stumbled across this Swedish treat in 2007, loving the diversity of Too Proud to Stick with Winners. At that time, Arbogast was essentially a one-man band, with friends pitching in. Certainties and Doubts is an obvious “band” effort, both in the writing and the playing. The parts gel together nicely, and there are riffs to remember, melodies to hum along with, and dirty beats to make your fingers snap. Svante Widerström has a great voice, very every-man honest, while able to leap into Radiohead/Muse falsetto and “get gruff” like hard rock swagger/stagger. People might reference Guns N’ Roses mellower moments (like “Patience” and their cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” where Axl really showed his range and restraint, thus they’re song that can and will be played on rock, soft rock, AOR, and “variety” stations now and for decades to come), or ’70s rock (Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, The Who, and The Stones have all come up), but all those singers have a “signature style” no one can duplicate, and they can’t get away from. Svente’s vocals aren’t nearly that distinctive (most aren’t, that’s why those bands are legendary), and his aren’t nearly so easy to pigeonhole as hard rock. I still hear some twang here, especially in the reaching moments, and someone namechecked REM, so let’s toss that one into the list. The lyrics here get clever, sometimes funny, and yet the next song, they’ll strip it bare and rock your ass into next week. There’s some really nice guitarwork here, kinda reminds me of Hanoi Rocks cuz it isn’t Slash’s wide-legged gonzo, it was dirty yet elegant, like Keith Richard’s groove. But the real value here (aside from an album full of worthwhile moments, meaning you have to get the whole thing and play it end to end) is Svante’s vocals. Warm and real, no need to showboat, he could lead this merry band of pranksters to great things.