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(45:36, Karisma Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Lemma 8:59 2. Heresy 7:16 3. Inertia 9:09 4. Langour 7:39 5. Ascension 1:37 6. Convulsion 5:06 7. Helix 9:16 8. Serpentstone 7:20 9. Phoenix 11:14 LINEUP: Stian Oekland vocals; guitars Erlend Vottvik Olsen guitars Haakon Vinje keyboards Tormod Fosso bass Fredrik Mekki Wideroe drums Benjamin Mekki Wideroe saxophone
Prolusion. The Norwegian band SEVEN IMPALE was formed in 2010 and has in fairly quick succession released an initial EP, been signed to the Norwegian label Karisma Records and subsequently released two more full-length studio recordings, "Contrapasso" is the most recent of the latter, and appeared in the second half of 2016.
Analysis. The debut album of the band, City of the Sun, impressed me on a high level, and kind of made me think about the band as a Norwegian alternative to the excellent Thank You Scientist. With its second album Seven Impale appears to shy away ever so slightly from those realms, if not always in the elements used in their compositions then at least in terms of mood and atmosphere. The easy way to describe this is that "Contrapasso" is a dark, often ominous and bleak experience on most levels. The band's intriguing use of jazz-rock elements does continue also this time around, with both gliding saxophone soloing and dramatic close to brass attack intensity flavored sequences, often complete with an undercurrent of details that does point towards both jazz-rock and classic progressive rock as likely sources of inspiration. It's all done in a darker manner however, where especially the guitars and keyboards both appear to emphasize that the music on the CD is geared from and heading towards a much darker landscape, at times with a metal-tinged intensity, with dramatic, majestic and looming soundscapes creating a strong sensation of oppression. The arrangements can be smooth and gliding, but also rough and raw, delicate and frail, but also monumental and majestic. The band ebbs and flows between multiple levels of contrast in the bleak landscapes explored, vocally at times reminding me of the fellow Norwegian band Vulture Industries with dramatic and effects-laden vocals, slightly pompous at times, but also with frequent use of a vocal style and delivery of a more careful nature. The use of psychedelic and subtly cosmic effects adds a further dimension to the proceedings, and again a dimension that appears to be enveloped in darkness, be it cold and chilling or delicate and ghostly. On some occasions these features dominate rather more than the referenced jazz-rock details, without the music being any less interesting due to it, I must add. While this is a challenging production, quirky, sophisticated and even slightly abrasive at times, I don't get the same level of thrill from this album as I got from their first CD "City of the Sun". This latest venture from Seven Impale is a high-quality production for sure, but at least for me, it lacks those finer details and elements that elevate a high quality production to the level of being brilliant and magical. Taste is subjective of course, but an additional impression I get is that this is a production that most likely will have less of a broad general appeal.
Conclusion. The Norwegian band Seven Impale has continued on the journey they started with their debut album, and on this occasion they have decided to hone in on a darker variety of their brand of eclectic progressive rock. The music remains challenging, quirky and sophisticated, with firm nods in the direction of jazz-rock and a more indefinable variety of progressive rock, on this occasion adding psychedelic nuances and occasional cosmic touches to the palette, as well as the sections bordering on progressive metal in intensity, already a part of their sound. A bit more of an acquired taste in sum, but for those with a strong fascination for dark, bleak and oppressive progressive rock of the eclectic variety this album should be a winner.
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