Review Summary: Delving deeper into prog rock territory...
Motorpsycho show absolutely no signs of wear at the dawn of their 30th anniversary. Never ones to conform to anything but their own visions and sonic paths, the Norwegian trio is currently experiencing another rejuvenation. This started the moment drummer Tomas Järmyr sat behind the kit, allowing the guys to explore new musical territories. The man has already shown us on the brilliant The Tower
how diverse can he be and that was after only a few months of jamming together (still, let us not forget or downplay Kenneth Kapstadt’s similar effect on MP’s output during the late ‘00s). A year later, accustomed to Bent Sæther and Snah’s styles, he was truly ready to showcase his skills on what became the latest album in the act’s discography.
takes its cues from The Tower
in all the ways, but delves deeper into progressive rock territory. Overall, you can include it amid the epic deliveries of The Death Defying Unicorn
, Little Lucid Moments
and its predecessor (obviously). For those who aren’t familiar with these older records, the music is influenced mainly by Black Sabbath, King Crimson and Yes. Clocking in at 40 minutes, the guys kept things tight and on point. Although there are just three tracks, they make it up by leaving you a gnarly journey to explore. Opener ‘Psychotzar’ is definitely the easiest tune to digest. The chunky riffs & guitar solos dominate here, whereas singalongs, mellotron leads, grand gongs splashes and cowbells gloriously join them. During the second half, things start to complicate a bit. A twisted jam takes off and Järmyr pounds the drums heavier by the minute, until everything falls into a quiet detour. Tension builds through uneasy chord progressions, so they ultimately burst back into a punchy yet poignant guitar motif that ends the song. This is that classic barn burner each of their works shares.
The two remaining beasts, ‘Lux Aeterna’ and the title cut express better the weirdness described by Bent in interviews preceding the release. The former begins as a rather mournful acoustic ditty, whose sound keeps intertwining with the tune’s major parts. It slowly progresses into the majestic main segment, again beautifully augmented by mellotron touches. There’s a lovely cinematic vibe flowing throughout, especially when the vocals pitch in. Halfway through, a piano interrupts everything and soon we’re thrown into a jazzy vertigo, where a saxophone solo tops everyone playing. The drum and bass interplay is stellar and even though I’m not a fan of the genre, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed being surprised by these jazzy leanings. As soon as they returned to the powerful part, I realized this is for me the best number on The Crucible
. I love the atmosphere and how smooth each instrument was arranged in the mix. Close behind is the title track, covering the entire second half of the album. After a faux alternative rock rhythm tease (I thought this start would be a throwback to late mid ‘00s material), Järmyr performs a dozen of busy drum patterns and variations, over which the guys rip through the scales. Five minutes in and multiple twists later, we’ve finally reached to the gist of the song. Echoing ‘The Tower’, the verses are initially accompanied solely by clean bass and guitar embellishments. Things, however, gradually grow in intensity, before a wall of noise interferes over the mechanical groove. I wasn’t expecting such a contrasting feature to be used, still, it’s a great addition. It echoes in a way the lyrical content that expresses their discontent with the political, economic or social issues (available for the entire album). More guitar solos can be heard upon reverting to a variation of the opening sonic idea, while Sæther & Tomas push forward their intricate meshing. As expected, the coda is epic, but then again, the entire album works at a high level of detail, as well as musical prowess.
Some might consider The Crucible
a tad pretentious even by Motorpsycho’s standards. Nevertheless, it’s a natural step further from The Tower
, a move that was made available by their current drummer. This can be a polarizing LP, especially for fans who are turned on by their poppier side (myself included) or ‘90s works. In spite of that, I believe this musical vertigo is actually a minutely crafted conceptual piece that represents a peak in their career. Keeping in tune with their shape shifting trips, you can just sit this one out if it doesn’t sink in. I am sure it won’t be long until we receive another highlight offering a different sound too.