Review Summary: One of their most rewarding and encompassing efforts…
No rest for Motorpsycho as they push full speed ahead in their own progressive rock journey with another massive double LP. The All Is One
is definitely a comprehensive listen, displaying both the intricate suites they’ve been perfecting for many years and shorter, alternative rock and folk-inspired ditties. It is also the third and final chapter in the loose “Gullvåg” trilogy (the artist who painted the covers and whose themes inspired the music), alongside The Tower
and The Crucible
. Lyrically, the group largely tackles moral, political, environmental and social issues we face today.
The All Is One
mainly boasts a string of familiar, more conventionally structured tunes, whereas at its core lies ‘N.O.X.’, a 42-minute odyssey. The book-ending cuts are easier to digest, so to complement them, you get to take an overwhelming trip to the ‘70s prog scene and back. ‘N.O.X.’ was born out of commissioned music written for the St. Olav Festival performance in Trondheim, Norway together with Lars Horntveth (Jaga Jazzist) & Ola Kvernberg (Steamdome). Håkon Gullvåg’s works acted as an abstract incentive for their most ambitious piece yet. The results are especially rewarding and offer a slightly different experience than what we’ve been accustomed to the past decade. ‘Circles Around the Sun, Part 1’ opens with an interesting drum groove and gritty bass line, on top of which beautiful, intriguing strings immediately create a grandiose vibe. Vocal sing-alongs join halfway, only to disperse into a jazzy segment, where a viola plays a rather dissonant solo. Growing more chaotic, the tune transitions at some point into the instrumental jam, ‘Ouroboros (Strange Loop)’. Here, the drums and bass get locked into a cyclical pattern, while the guitar takes off on a glorious solo. The melodic piano and mellotron touches during the second half are gorgeous, easily slipping into the smooth, sunny psychedelia of ‘Ascension’. This dreamy interlude is a sweet pause from all the madness that returns once more with ‘Night of Pan’. Plucked strings play at a militant pace, accompanied by soft croons and light organ leads. As the mellotron takes the forefront once more, the drums kick in with some uncanny tom-heavy beats. This nightmarish experience turns darker with poignant guitars, strings and playfully creepy piano notes. ‘Circles Around the Sun, Part 2’ continues this anxiety-inducing climax by including choral vocals and distorted guitars. Paranoid synths augment as well to a nauseating level until the subdued, acoustic ditty, ‘A Little Light’ luckily offers you a way out of this dark labyrinth. This strange, but impressive epic requires several listens on its own to fully grasp. Nevertheless, by fusing classic Yes, early Genesis, Magma and even Pink Floyd, among other prog influences into their trademark sound, the members crafted a thrilling affair, one that will surely impress even the most pretentious fans.
The remaining tunes on The All Is One
were recorded in a separate session with main collaborator Reine Fiske (Dungen). They display Motorpsycho’s penchant for prog-infused alternative and hard rock, complete with forays into folk territory. The title track continues the usual wanderings, switching from trademark jangly chords, sharp guitar leads and loud singing to intricate progressions, thus, allowing drummer Tomas Järmyr to perform several variations and fills along the way. Meanwhile, ‘Dreams of Fancy’ relies on a cool, broken, swaying groove, inevitable mellotron mania, intersected with gentle acoustic segments. It’s nothing new for them, however, the steady pace and catchy notes become mesmerizing. Moreover, ‘The Same Old Rock (One Must Imagine Sisyphus Happy)’ & ‘The Magpie’ share faster tempos and more straightforward riffs, reminding of earlier material. These also bring some fresh air into this thick sonic jungle. As the closing number, ‘Like Chrome’ throws one final round of meandering melodies and build-ups, you can’t help but accept it with open arms. This is how I feel regarding the Norwegian trio’s music: I know what I’m getting into, yet it is so captivating that every time I am happy to just hear them doing their thing again. I was ready to say Motorpsycho exhausted the progressive rock bonanza of the past decade and here they are proving me wrong. Dropping some fresh experiments as always, we are left to discover new bits every year. This is one of their best records so far and an easy contender for album of the year in the genre’s category.