Thursday, October 15, 2015
Q: Do you mind if there’s not a jot of the Queen’s English in your lyrics?
Q: Do you insist on a variety of attack or styling between tracks?
Q: Do you balk at any one of punk, groove or rock n’roll?
If the answer to any one of these questions is a resounding “Yes” then step away from this review. As much as they’d hate to admit, this fiery sextet play tightly-focussed, unrepentant Norwegian punk n’roll and, by association, require their English-speaking fans to have open minds, open souls and open hearts to make any kind of impact. Thankfully, here at Ave Noctum we do have acolytes of the band and we are determined to absorb all others in our joy-fuelled drunken party that breaks out every time someone slaps on a Man The Machetes track. Is album number two just as fun though?
Yep, it’s a cracking album. The band picks up where Idiokrati left off, with the new tracks whipping along at an equally dizzying pace. With the vocal tightened up and brought to the front of the mix, which coincidentally reduces the impact of the chord power, the whole feels punkier, more visceral. It certainly solidifies their position as bright young things on the scene. It doesn’t hold as many stand-out gems as their startling debut and there isn’t any sign of them experimenting with their established system of riff, chug and adrenaline-coursing roar. And yet it’s still a total mosh.
Going at this from a different angle, let’s analyse what makes the band a tour de force. In a word, it’s the “groove”. With every instrument, driving towards the same end goal, the result is an infectious, rhythmic machine like no other. It starts with the drums and in Per Christian Holm they have a pumping, pistoning machine. He drives everything with a vicious snare strike and an inate aptitude for colourfully patterning the music with cymbal strikes. The other key component is the triple guitar attack of Morton, Erlend and Markus which are layered into the music to give a startling effect of having the chugs and mini-riffs work like ripples as they each bite to the front before fading to the back or over to the left or right ear.
Also, like all good masseurs know, the key is to always retain contact with the intended recipient. Consequently, the songwriting is structured so that whenever the music drops out there is always one finger of instrumentation still tickling the listener at all times. It could be a lone, gutsy bassline, a trickle of cymbal strikes or a bare vocal but the band make sure they are always on it.
Standout moments come with the stepdown in pace to the crawling lead and sweet rock-a-bye riff on “Tung Luft” and with the crafty, constructive forethought that has gone into the humdinger “Orkenmarsj”. It’s still lagging behind their debut when it comes to hooks, raw grunt and staying power but with ever-improving production values this still knows how to throw its weight around. To this end, Av Nag clambers over the writhing bodies of Kvelertak, Feed The Rhino and Cancer Bats to grab at you. Fear not though, these boys don’t want to fight, they want to dance, chant and sing at your side – as comrades in arms.
Imagine if Torche hoovered the uplifting braggadocio and enslaving hooks of Audrey Horne – that’s what this is. It’s emphatically boisterous, effortlessly driving and engagingly addictive. From the opening drumroll and fizzing vocal blast of “Anchors”, it’s a riff-worthy, chorus-led sequence of poppy panache meets hard rocking grunt. There are hints of Arlo’s glossy sheen stumbling their merry way into the multi-tracked vocals of Shi on “Part Of The Sea”. Yet there’s also a darker tone in there that pulls at the inventive crescendos and shading of Baroness’ John Dyer Baizley and the way he pulls out top notes from the most sombre of places.
The slow-quick majesty of the earworm “Snow Song” pulls a choral hook from the heavens themselves. Enigmatically crisp and strangely familiar, it feels like a homecoming – an emotional centre of warmth and hope. It’s a theme that runs throughout the album. There are no true edges here, merely gentle warnings and then reassurance in the soft down of the songwriting.
“Onward Upward” struggles to gain a foothold with its dissolute phrasing, narrow structure and run-time but, to be fair, there are other tracks that could be tagged as equally unadventurous even when they hit the mark. Certainly, the glowing touchstone of “New Year Repeat” corrects any imbalance by building elegiacally to a cosmos-scraping hook and a wonderful arpeggio guitar that trips the light fantastic before plunging to the very depths of the ocean.
Wildlights pull at the loose threads left by others leaving the dark mesh behind them to create effortlessly light, airy, voraciously catchy pieces of driving rock that are an utter joy. Like a meteor traIling fluoresence and fire across a black night’s sky – I urge you to follow.