A Smörgåsbord is a Swedish buffet-style variety plate, often featuring both hot and cold options. Maybe the options go together in obvious ways, like cheese topping a cracker, but occasionally you may find yourself mixing foods that aren’t exactly peanut butter & jelly. Even when the flavours you’ve chosen don’t mix, you at least get the personal satisfaction of controlling your own Scandinavian culinary expedition.
Gregory Pepper and His Problems consists of Guelph songwriter Gregory Pepper and his problems, which may or may not include self-awareness.
Pepper’s latest album is self-written, performed and recorded. He is the lone creative force behind Black Metal Demo Tape and because of that freedom, he has made an album that is exciting, raw and entirely unique. While Pepper has made a name for himself by writing perfect power pop, BMDT is almost lo-fi and features sonic nods to nearly every genre of guitar music. It is a sprawling and often contradictory experience, but Pepper’s liberated songwriting often yields beautiful results.
“Big Sister”, likely an ode to his older sisters introducing him to Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, is based around a drum loop and a wash of shoegaze guitar, topped with a chamber choir of Peppers. “Problems Theme Part 3” is a song that would make teenage Rivers Cuomo proud. “I Don’t Care” almost justifies the black metal typeface and the corpse-painted cat sacrificer on the cover. By the finale of “When We Were High” you are certain that, despite not being black metal, this weird and wonderful album is a perfect home for certain characteristics of the genre.
BMDT‘s darker, Scandinavian overtones brings us back to the Smörgåsbord. It really sounds like a melding of both hot and cold musical impulses. “Nothing Song” and “This Town”, despite the latter being thematically dark, are closer to the classic Pepper mold: fun and bright. “My Roommate Is a Snake and My Landlord’s a Bat” is a full on doom tune; think Ben Gibbard fronting Black Sabbath. It’s all brought to a frigid end on “Quirky”, which starts with a wall of guitar à la Deafheaven and in a flash becomes an acoustic ballad that is haunted by the sustained noisy drone of the intro.
Black Metal Demo Tape will be an enjoyable listen for any rock fan. Even if some of Pepper’s combinations seem weird at first, they become increasingly delightful as you get more and more used to the taste.