INTRODUCTION (If you can’t sleep, this will probably do the trick. Please excuse my inane ramblings).
Occasionally, reviewing a CD can become a bit of a chore. The problem is, there are deadlines to be met and quite simply, one may not be in the mood to give ones full attention to the task in hand. To be able to review an album at leisure is a luxury we can rarely afford. Consequently there are times when we may not do justice to the aforementioned album.
Many, many years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the continents were still in the process of formation, a close friend of mine regularly received vinyl demos featuring various “artistes” and he would often pass these on to me to play as and when the fancy took me. Being an avid music fan, the prospect of receiving up to twenty records (remember them?) at a time was wonderful.
The reality however, was somewhat different. I felt a compulsion to listen to all these albums in their entirety(irrespective of content or quality). Very few of these had an immediate impact, although with time, some did eventually become favourites. In general I would become restless and, dare I say, bored.
Very rarely, I would come across a hidden gem, something that would blow me away from the outset. Whether this was due to my receptive state of mind(or something else), I don’t know. For me, this is such an offering.
SEVEN IMPALE are a relatively young band that were formed in Bergen, Norway In 2010. A debut E.P. was released In 2013 “Beginning/relieve” to much critical acclaim and since then they have played at various festivals to gain exposure.
Their sound, whilst being unique, is a fusion of elements and styles, which for me at least, evoke memories of some of the “Classic” bands of the “Golden Age” i.e. Colosseum, King Crimson, Audience, Van Der Graaf Generator and Soft Machine to name but a few. Obviously there are more modern influences in the mix, but even this, in essence, allows the music to progress and develop. After all, isn’t this what Progressive Rock is all about?
Line – Up :- Stian Økland : Vocals, Guitar. Fredrik Mekki Widerøe: Drums. Benjamin Mekki Widerøe: Saxophone. Tormod Fosso: Bass. Erlend Vottvik Olsen: Guitar. Hakon Vinje: Keyboards.
1. Oh, My Gravity!
3. Eschaton Horo
5. God Left Us For A Black – Dressed Woman
“OH , MY GRAVITY” commences the proceedings with a deceptively stark Sax motif. The drums and further percussion kick in and then the sound fills out somewhat. This could almost be a jam, but I suspect it’s far, far more than that. These guys kick ass. These guys display a musical maturity far beyond their years and are firmly in command of the controls. There are many things going on here. The music gradually gathers momentum, culminating into what, to me, evokes an almost African ambience. (I have heard similar passages in the music of Fela Kuti and Ali Hassan Kuban for example.) A hypnotic rhythm ensues, gradually increasing in volume and induces an almost trance like state capturing the listeners attention every inch of the way. The introduction of the guitar and electric piano at this point, echo some of the greats of the Progressive/Jazz Rock genre (Soft Machine comes to mind.) Cue the distinctive voice of Stian Oklkand. After a brief lull our senses are assaulted with what appears to be a full on “Metal” interlude, but I know appearances can be deceptive. For a short while there is a sort of “Free Jazz” passage before order is once again restored and all is calm. Soon were back in familiar” Prog Rock” territory (lest we forget), complete with vocals and pleasing harmonies. The piece concludes in a rather quiet unassuming manner, belying the intensity of all that has come to pass.
“WINDSHEARS”. Generally, I,m not a great Jazz fan per se, but somehow the beautifully evocative saxophone passage near the beginning of this piece encourages me to explore the genre further, surely one cannot award a greater accolade than this? But I do not wish to undermine the rest of this opus. This is a beautifully executed work, full of atmosphere, enticing vocals and at times, a driving compelling rhythm. Aside from the obviously jazzy influence, both Metal and Prog naturally, are featured. In England we have a saying “Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None”. In the case of “Seven Impale” the phrase would have to be re written. “Jack Of All Trades, Master Of All”.
As the name Implies,“ESCHATON HORO” suggests some kind of dance. This is probably most evident in the opening bars of this number which, despite it,s Greek/Turkish/Bulgarian leanings, still somehow manages to evoke memories of some of the great bands of “Prog” such as “Gentle Giant” “Colosseum” etc. However, all is then wonderfully calm and tranquil and a beautifully mellow, dreamy, sax passage ensues replete with vocals by Stian Okland. The calm is suddenly shattered by some heavy riffing, again displaying the versatility of this band. A real hotch potch of styles and moods. Something for everyone.
“EXTRACTION”. A thundering, scratchy bass introduces this next piece but this is soon augmented by the full power of the band. Although this gets a little chaotic at first, we’re soon back in familiar territory as the organ asserts itself and somehow establishes a riff that “Deep Purple” or maybe even early “Santana” would be proud of. Several time changes later and there’s an altogether gentler, jazzier feel to the proceedings. But wait! What’s this? Back from the grave we can hear the dulcet tones of Alex Harvey taking over Stian’s roll as vocalist. The effect is only momentary (or more likely, a figment of my overactive imagination) and very soon Stian,s voice takes on a timbre that is uniquely his own (Well, with maybe just a slight touch of Peter Hamill in there). About half way through, the initial melody is reprised, only this time more effectively, with the addition of guitar, piano and backing vocals which competently extend the length and open up this section somewhat. From here on, things get a little tedious and repetitive. The weakest track on a great album.
Despite it’s length, (clocking in at over 14 minutes), “GOD LEFT US FOR A BLACK DRESSED WOMAN” doesn’t disappoint. All the elements which make this a great album are there in abundance. There’s a long introduction, dominated by an arpeggiated guitar and slightly later, a multi tracked sax. There’s bass and various percussion in the background too. The rhythm gradually picks up in tempo and Stian once again weaves his magic and we’re away. There always seems to be a beautiful melodic section in there somewhere which defies categorization. A number with many twists and turns which evoke memories (once again) of “Gentle Giant”. As you may have already gathered, the saxophone features heavily in most of these pieces and consequently adds further variations to this already full canvas. I love the way the ending gradually builds into a beautiful melody, (Caravan use this to great effect on one of their numbers), although the actual coda itself is somewhat more discordant. In all an extremely competent blending of old and new but with a unique twist which marks this band out for longevity. Can,t wait for their next offering.
This is a truly amazing album that will undoubtedly appeal to Prog Rock fans everywhere. There’s a maturity to their sound which I would have thought could only come with age. I am truly amazed that they have definitively mastered the genre. (with one or two modern twists of course). Ordinarily I would be very reluctant to award five stars, but on this occasion I am unable to do otherwise. I would recommend this album unreservedly to Progressive Rock fans old and new. If you don’t like (at least some of) this album (In my opinion), you don,t like Progressive Rock. Great “Sax” appeal by the way.