Short opener ‘These Vultures’, despite the title sounding like what you might call your new band if it was still 2009, sports flute sounds which provide a promising portend of further deviation from standard rock instrumentation; nothing adventurous, but organs etc. bring added colour to the arrangements throughout the record. As the vocal chorus ominously orates “I’ll be gone before the morning comes” the drums enter with heavy and satisfying impact.
Aforementioned vocal choruses are perhaps the most interesting facet of the album – the Norwegian metal-heads often chant in at least three-part harmony, and this manages to take their sound beyond the generic from time to time. When frontman Toschie does fly solo, a sneering Molko-like inflection comes through and the results are Alice In Chains-esque â€“ see single ‘Down Like Suicide’, in which an overblown chorus is joined by an infectious guitar counter-riff. Treatment of the vocal sound throughout the album is effective, producer Joe Barresi (who has previously worked with QOTSA, The Jesus Lizard, Coheed & Cambria) often wisely uses a punchy fuzz to electrify what might otherwise be quite an uninteresting voice.
‘Circus’ is fitting to its name as the organ chords give it that exact feel, whereas ‘Bridges And Anchors’ bewilderingly boasts a spaghetti western feel (reminiscent of Muse anthem ‘Knights Of Cydonia’) before kicking in with a standard metal verse. These melodic rock tracks make it hard to fathom that some of the members are veterans from black metal groups Enslaved and Gorgoroth.
‘Sail Away’ (devastatingly not an Enya cover) is the mid-album ballad. This, along with closer ‘Godspeed’, reveals the band’s ability to provide welcome repose. In the latter, acoustic guitar, sparse rhodes piano and slow string arrangements provide a cinematic feel, whilst an affecting, firm-but-fragile vocal carries a semblance of emotion, albeit over unimaginative harmony. The listener is finally assured there is at least some change in pace on a record otherwise awkwardly uniform in tone.
One would expect more from a band whose moniker derives from a character in one of the best television shows ever made, but this eponymous record is a solid rock effort from black metal musicians trying to catch a broader listenership.
Written by Michael Waters