Historically, the phoenix has always symbolized rebirth. Something which occurs after an individual is literally or figuratively destroyed, oftentimes going into obscurity for a period, it is the resurrection that starts anew for them. An inspirational tale of reluctance to be defeated, The Gems are a perfect example of the phoenix.
A band consisting of Vocalist Guernica Mancini, Drummer Emlee Johansson, and Guitarist/Bassist Mona “Demona” Lindgren, each were a part of the band Thundermother prior. Thundermother, a band that was formed back in 2010, had released four studio albums together, toured with the likes of The Scorpions, and were highly acclaimed. Then to the surprise of many, in early 2023 Thundermother was disassembled from within; resulting in Mancini being left out in the cold. A very curious turn of events for those from the outside looking in, soon after, Johansson and Lindgren joined Mancini, leaving only Guitarist Filippa Nässil as the last original member of Thundermother. Something that unquestionably was difficult for everyone involved, rather than just pack up and go home, the three former members of Thundermother regrouped with The Gems, and now are set to release their statement making debut album Phoenix.
Set for release through Napalm Records on January 26, 2024, the album follows a distinctive theme throughout which says – you can try and push me aside, but never count me out. A feeling that you think would come naturally for The Gems after the roller coaster emotions they went through in the last twelve months, the best part of it all is that the energy is directed in all the right places; and not just a rage-filled vengeance sound-off. Sometimes when we have emotions deep inside and are looking for an outlet to let them loose, they could fire off like bottle rockets in various different directions… never knowing what they will hit. That said, Mancini, Johansson, and Lindgren all took a deep breath before approaching The Gems’ music, soon going in and taking any negativity brewing inside of them and harnessing it into powerful, cathartic Rock-n-Roll
Fifteen songs in total, sixteen if you count the acoustic rendition of “Like a Phoenix,” this debut album rocks hard… very hard. What this means is that it does not only feature potent Hard Rock with blistering, heavy guitar riffs, but also some of Mancini’s most intense vocal performances ever. A Rock-n-Roll powerhouse, we have always known Mancini could sing when with Thundermother, but with The Gems it almost feels like reins have been let loose. This results in more upfront, more intense, full bodied vocals from Mancini that many have been waiting to hear. This, matched with the aforementioned theme of having something to prove, makes each song on Phoenix one you can chant along with and legitimately feel in your bones.
Impossible to tell you what is the best song on this album, a bundle worth first listens if you are just a curious bystander, would have to include “Send Me To The Wolves,” “Silver Tongue,” “Undiscovered Paths,” and “Like A Phoenix.” And if you are looking for something a little more mellow, The Gems prove they can do that too with the heartfelt, gut-wrenching ballad “Ease Your Pain.”
Overall, The Gems’ Phoenix is one of Rock-n-Roll’s boldest debut albums in some time. There is no question there was a fire burning deep inside of Mancini, Johansson, and Lindgren going into this new venture. Something that may have been exciting, but also frightening, the end result is mature, insightful, and full of wisdom that we should all take note of. What is that message? It is that sometimes we are hurt, sometimes we cast out, but we must always remember that hate is baggage, dwelling in the past does no one any good… and the only path is forward. Really impressed with The Gems and what they are doing, Cryptic Rock gives Phoenix 5 out of 5 stars.