Review Summary: The one where the psycho really revs up the motor.
"Motorpsycho might be the band with one of the most mismatched names out there." I thought exactly that upon hearing the first track from Demon Box, "Waiting For The One", as the gentle acoustic melody filled the room. Really, I expected something completely deranged, given the fact that this band kept popping up as related to Shining, a black metal/jazz fusion collective I spent quite a long time digesting, and it was the kind of indigestion one willingly keeps coming back to. Anyway, turned out that Motorpsycho was not the kind of mentally unstable person to ride a hot rod with flames spewing out of their exhaust pipes while the driver is surfing on the hood with a nine iron trying to hit as many passing rear-view mirrors as possible. This psycho is more of a silent type, kind of like a 90's Syd Barrett, getting incredibly high between seemingly endless road trips and somehow getting much weirder when sober. Is that a bad thing? Could have just said "no", but I'm planning for a longer review.
The first thing you'll notice about Demon Box is how many styles it manages to encompass: first four tracks already showcase just how huge Motorpsycho's range is. I've already touched upon "Waiting For The One", an acoustic guitar song whose main hook is carried by a folksy flute, in addition to even folksier lyrics about a loved one who might never come back. It's also worth noting that this song serves as a bookend, the last track being an electric version of it, and though I'm usually not the one for that kind of repetition, this case is a wonderful exception - in fact, listening to both versions back-to-back kind of improves the experience. Song number 2, "Nothing To Say", shows a grungier side of the band, known to those familiar with Motorpsycho's earlier works, but I consider this one to be a major improvement because of how the guitars here have more character to them - no other band can pull off a grunge number with a psychedelic tinge that feels like sun pouring on you through a dusty window, all careless and mellowed out. Now "Feedtime", the third one, is more of a rarity. It treads on the groovier side of alternative metal, combining simple, frantic guitar with outstanding drumming to create any headbanger's dream which totally could have been on some racing game’s soundtrack. The fourth track is called "Sunchild" and is a high-energy punk rock song which also happens to incorporate a really catchy chorus and one of the best shredding solos I've heard in punk altogether.
And if that is not enough to convince you that Demon Box is going to be a real adventure, there's still much, much more. The album's second half takes the experimentation to another level with the textural, melancholic "Plan #1", or the 17-minute title track partially consisting of pure noise and channeling the best of Melvins. Among the more unusual additions is stuff like "All Is Loneliness", a Moondog cover and a very atmospheric psychedelic folk number, and "Step Inside Again", which consists mostly of a very ominous minimalistic instrumental and creepy whispered vocals.
All of this leads me to the thought that while some bands keep looking for their definitive sound, others just sweep everything off the shelves and see what sticks and what doesn't. For a band that started out composing most of their songs in the studio during jam sessions, like Motorpsycho did, the kitchen sink approach definitely seems to be the best one. Some might not like the sharp turns this record makes at times, and some will say that with a voice like this frontman Bent Sæther should just stick to grunge, but to me the spirit of creative discovery is what truly ties this Norwegian trio and their music together. This is the kind of music that's born out of people's love for music in general, and if you're into that, this album's waiting for you. As well as the rest of the band's enormous discography.