Review Summary: Rekindling the fire.
Fire! Orchestra are all about contradictions, contrasting madness with tunefulness and the monumental scope with the moments of minimalistic improvisation. This big band comprised of 28 Swedish musicians made a name for themselves last year with Exit!
, the debut that stretched out the boundaries of free jazz, taking inspiration from a wide variety of music styles. The effect was a discordant blast of an album that defied expectations with its potent mash-up of noise and cacophony set against a distinctly melodious backdrop. Enter!
is a logical continuation of this musical path, elaborating on the free jazz style with an enlarged spectrum of musical influences. The apocalyptic crescendos and trance-inducing rhythms finely blend with the free jazz elements. Yet, there's also plenty of soul intimacy and rock swagger on display this time around, which makes Enter!
into an even more genre-bending offering than its predecessor.
The songwriting is dictated by movements that patiently progress in post-rock fashion. The big band's conductor Mats Gustafsson is in perfect control of every sound, lending the music guidance and discipline. Still, there's room for unhinged moments of madness that are not only reflected in the dissonant arrangement of saxophones and trumpets constantly building up and dissolving into chaos, but also in vocal performances delivered by three singers who boast vastly different techniques. The vocal palette encompasses delicate soprano one moment and guttural screeching that's utterly unsettling the next. These diverse vocals are instrumental in shaping up a distinct spiritual dimension in which the album exists.
Even though 52-minute long Enter!
feels very much like one multifaceted composition, it has been awkwardly divided into two parts. The first one is way more engrossing, showcasing the big band's knack for blending numerous potentially dissimilar styles to dazzling effect. Swiftly advancing through a serene art-pop intro, a crazed theatrical mid-section and a blissful rock freak-out based on a formidable bass groove and swift tribal drumming, the piece overflows with genuine passion, and a sense of pay-off that's been absent from experimental jazz music recently. Regrettably the album loses some steam later on. The tight song craft gives way to the abstract musical forms of 'Part 2' which ranges from intriguing to downright terrifying, yet never quite reaches the emotional resonance of the ensemble's most alluring work.
rekindles its strength with the last segment, though. In its final 9 minutes the album reshapes its apocalyptic visions into something much more hopeful. This lushly orchestrated piece may capture the band in their most conventional mode, but its intensity built around poignant vocals and mounting tension is in a class by itself. The result is an anthem that's at once powerfully emotive and deeply inspiring. “Underneath the water it feels like inside the womb,” the vocalists proclaim in unison in the track's finale. It's the rebirth of human spirit.