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Icelandic Rock Band KALEO Releases New Album “Surface Sounds” — Unspoken Press

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By: Colin Naughton

Icelandic rock band, KALEO, released a new album, Surface Sounds, on April 23rd, 2021. This is the band’s second studio album following their very successful debut album, A/B, released in 2016. KALEO, the Hawaiian term for “the sound,” is made up of JJ Julius Son on lead vocals and guitar, Rubin Pollock on guitar, David Antonsson on drums, and Daniel Kristjansson on bass guitar. They create soulful ballads and beautiful melodies with hints of folk styles, all while keeping rock and roll at the heart of their music. This band that hails from Iceland has made tremendous strides in the music world and is on pace to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world. 

I was first introduced to the incredible music of KALEO in 2019 when they opened for The Rolling Stones at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, California. I immediately knew this was going to be a band I was going to fall in love with and that might be an understatement. I am absolutely obsessed! Their music lit a fire within my soul, I knew that the genre of Rock ‘N Roll was in good hands with these boys. They’re youthful and have a certain rockstar swagger to them that creates an electric stage presence. Not to mention their music videos are some of the most amazing videos you will ever see, you almost think that you are watching an episode of National Geographic. Their videos highlight their beautiful homeland Iceland. You’ll see the band perform their songs on glaciers, inside volcanoes, outside erupting volcanoes, on cliffs in the middle of the ocean, in the beautiful countryside of Iceland and so much more. 

In typical KALEO fashion each and every song on, Surface Sounds, is unique and absolutely amazing! The album starts with the track “Brother Run Fast,” a slower yet powerful song with a catchy chorus. The drumming by Antonsson is absolutely sublime in this track, truly the driving force that supports the vocals of JJ Julius Son.

We then go to “Break My Baby,” which has a badass, heavy guitar riff that begins the song and is heard continuously throughout the track. Paired with fantastic singing that is transitioned beautifully going from slower, emotionally drawn-out notes to more rock n’ roll vibes to match with the guitar playing of Pollock. It’s definitely one of my favorite songs on this new album. 

“Alter Ego” is the third song on this album and is a high-octane energy track right from the start. You can hear the screech of Julius Son’s in the background while Pollock comes in with a super cool guitar riff setting the stage for this blues-rock song. You can’t help but nod your head, stomp your foot to the beat, sing along to the chorus and let the music take control as the sounds emanating from the electric guitar send waves of energy throughout your body. Julius Son’s voice sounds so good, hitting high notes with “oooo’s” and high screech’s reminiscent of Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin. It’s such a well-put-together song!

“Free the Slave” is an inspiring, uplifting, and motivational track telling listeners to “Rise Up” and accomplish their dreams, take this world by storm. There’s a really cool distorted blues guitar riff paired with silky vocals. The energy continues to build as the song goes on until you finally hit the peak and by then you’re already consumed by the music letting go of the inner slave within yourself. 

“Skinny” is yet another number on Surface Sounds that has so much energy you can’t contain yourself as you listen. From the guitars to the drums to the bass to the singing I don’t know which to focus on when I listen because it is all so good! The lyrics are meaningful and deep, Julius Son sings about societal expectations in today’s world, that everyone has to be skinny to look good, it talks about the superficial standards people face in the world of social media. It’s a sad truth but we really are “living in a fu*#ed up world.” “Skinny” starts with a nice melodic chord progression as Julius Son sings with power and passion, then at the chorus the guitar rips out into this heavy, loud electric fury. The vocals demonstrated in this song really show you the lung capacity and true talent of JJ Julius Son. I love the raw guitar solo towards the end. 

“Hey Gringo” has funk to it, it’s so soulful and groovy. If this song doesn’t get you up out of your seat dancing around I don’t know what will. It’s got such a cool blues harmonica riff incorporated throughout and amazing background singing that adds another layer to the track, you can’t help but sing along. Pollock’s guitar playing is very bluesy, keeping a common rhythm while adding in little solos when necessary. This song shows the versatility KALEO has.

We’ve now come to the slower-paced, more moving tracks on the album starting with “My Fair Lady.” JJ Julius Son creates a soft comforting atmosphere with his absolutely beautiful voice and the acoustic guitar playing is so touching it makes the music more intimate. The lyrics are lovely, making you think about how the music relates to your own life experiences. “I Want More” is my personal favorite song on Surface Sounds. It starts with a songbird whistle from Julius  Son, then a very pretty acoustic finger-picked chord progression that makes the music sound more natural and heartfelt. The vocals sound vulnerable and hopeful and then they break out into this triumphant anthem of joy. Julius Son sings about love and passion, you just want to hold that person you love dearly close to you and enjoy every moment you have with them. KALEO absolutely delivers in “I Want More,” they leave you in awe of the beauty of this song. Julius Son’s vocals don’t let you hope for something different, but rather leave you wanting more. “Backbone” and “Into My Mother’s Arms” are two more extremely beautiful melodies with fantastic singing and guitar playing. The lyrics are powerful, relatable, touching, and profound. 

“I Walk on Water” is an extraordinary piece of music. It’s a very dynamic song, building energy from the start you can just feel all of the sounds pulsating through your body and soul. It starts slowly and gets faster with a more motivational drive to it making you feel invincible, like you can go out and accomplish anything. You feel as if “I Walk on Water” is your anthem as you are the main character in this thing we call life. This song is so inspiring it gives me chills! I am in love with the choir background vocals that come in towards the end of the song. This is the type of song that makes you realize how powerful music is.

Surface Sounds reminds me of why I love music so much, when you find these songs or albums that have the ability to make you feel something deep within and make you forget your worries and troubles in life, inspiring you to enjoy the world around you and get excited for the future; that’s when you know you’ve found a truly exceptional piece of music. KALEO produces music that makes you feel something inside, something within your soul. Their catalog of songs includes such a wide variety of styles. They have real high energy rock n’ roll tracks that make you want to stomp your foot and rock out. Then they have slow, emotional ballads that will melt your heart. It’s music that has the ability to release the most inner human emotions that sometimes you don’t even know are there. The sound of KALEO isn’t just something you hear with your ears, it’s something you hear with your mind, body and soul. 

So mark my words and start listening to this band from the little country of Iceland because I promise you in a couple of years they will be one of the biggest bands in the world. The music of KALEO is something that transcends the average band/artist. They are able to do something that only a handful of bands are able to do and that is to make you feel deep emotions while you listen, it makes you want to replay their songs over and over again. You can stream Surface Sounds on your preferred streaming service and you can follow the extremely promising musical career of KALEO on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

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