Årabrot (Norway) - 'The rule of silence' (track from the album Norwegian Gothic)
Here’s an unusual one. Årabrot is named after a rubbish tip in their home town of Haugesund. I came across them three years ago when they were about to release their previous album, 'Who do you Love’.At the time I observed that to me they occupied a middle ground somewhere between Deep Purple and any number of early 1970’s British prog bands. That’s despite them being widely regarded as anything from a metal band to a post punk outfit, while they consider themselves too black for metal and too avant-garde for punk hence they “forged their own path.”
And I suppose that essentially they are all of these things.
The band is based – or at least it was then - in at a former church in the woods of Dalarna in rural Sweden. Appropriately, because their lyrical focus orbits around sex, death and defiance. Front man Kjetil (Nernes) lives there with his wife Karin Park who plays keys in the band and who is also a Swedish-Norwegian pop (goth) star in her own right, with a role in the Norwegian version of Les Misérables to her credit. She likes to portray herself as the white Grace Jones.
Årabrot introduce this new album by saying “Rock’n’roll was long dead before Johnny Rotten picked up a microphone. And a long time buried by the time Oasis chose to molest its putrid carcass. But the spirit of whence it came still lives on in the blood of those who know its true meaning, symbols andreferences.” Discuss. And hand in your essays first thing Monday morning.
Regrettably, I haven’t had the time to listen to the entire 16-track album in any detail and could only select one track as an example for you. Despite most of the fan accolades going to 14th track ‘Deadlock’ I chose the second one, ‘The rule of silence’ mainly because the title attracted me. So many people seem to be being silenced these days. A quick glance at some sound bites from the reviews so far (mainly by heavy rock and metal publications) told me to expect a ‘polarisation’ in the album.
There’s polarisation a-plenty on this track alone. It starts off in the territory of a symphonic metal song but quickly takes on the mantle of a regular heavy rock piece but, here’s the thing, the vocal is delivered in a manner that sits somewhere between punk and glam rock. One fan comment on their Facebook page likes them to an amalgam of Led Zeppelin, Joy Division, Nick Cave and Gary Glitter. I thought he must be joking, especially about Glitter, but that turns out actually to be pretty musically accurate.
Some of their PR is, to be honest, a little on the pretentious side. “Årabrot is the bastard offspring of Billie Holiday and Elmore James. It is The Velvet Underground if Johnny Cash was a member and Nico was able to sing. It is Camus, Sartre, Poe and Burroughs cut-up and regurgitated in an unholy erotic mass. It is all the great bands you haven’t even heard of. It is you. It is here it is now and there are other bodies to bury. Årabrot is not fucking around.”
Pardon me? No, on the strength of this track they’re a pretty darn good heavy rock band, unlikely to tax you with arty-farty lyrics or complex time signature changes but with the skill to interweave alternate musical styles credibly. But leave Camus and Sartre to Eric Cantona, please.
Norwegian Gothic was released on 9th April (Pelagic Records).