Review Summary: No beginnings, only endings.
Take a shot every time a post-rock/metal review mentions the ‘art of the journey’ and you’ll be down for the count in roughly three sentences. It’s impossible not to mention it, however; it’s doubtlessly the most exciting portion of genres that, by and large, aim for a predetermined destination that will let loose all instrumentals and bombard with unbridled heaviness. It’s what can make a story of standard narrative beats engaging; how the protagonist navigates the setting, the choices they make, all that jazz—it takes a winding, unpredictable path to the finish line. Still with me? Toss all those conventions out the window; young up-and-comers Liongeist of Norway spend the entirety of their debut self-titled racing a victory lap around that finish line, kicking off the album with an exciting intensity that only rarely recedes. Rather than emphasizing the beginning or the middle of the metaphorical tale, the Oslo collective skip straight to ending where the protagonist faces their fears, battling against a raging storm as waves crash about, casting specks of water onto a battleground that’s slowly dissolving into the surf. An exaggeration perhaps, but there’s a cinematic scope to the grandeur that Liongeist concoct. All of the pure bombast of a post-rock conclusion is amplified, leading to an experience that feels relatively less dictated by familiar clichés than is often expected of the post-crowd of bands.
The comparative absenteeism of ambiguity is stressed by opener “This Feels Like the End.” This is not a standard introduction that desires to unravel over the course of a meticulous crescendo; Liongeist establish immediately that their realm of post-ness is ruled by a domineering low end courtesy of an unfathomably beefy bass. Its prominence in the mix almost injects a groovy edge to the record’s songs, often conquering tracks on its own due to its unrestrained resonance. When precisely aligned with the guitars, “This Feels Like the End” strikes with ferocity, demanding attention with its destructive capabilities. The group’s talents are not limited by their predilection to setting proceedings ablaze, although it undoubtedly makes “Third Molar” a highlight, what with its soaring riffs and the unyielding march of the bass—its pulsating rhythm functions as the heartbeat of the tune, guiding it into an increasingly claustrophobic soundscape. Beyond that foundation, Liongeist immerse their sound in melodic tones, utilizing both guitars to color the scenery with elegant tremolos that echo in the background or discordant riffs that aid in generating hefty passages. The stray appearance of string instruments, such as those that creep through the uncommon calm of “As Soon as I Stepped Outside, Everything Got Wore,” contributes additional personality to an album that, when cranked up to maximum volume, relishes in a dark, foreboding aesthetic.
While the central attraction of Liongeist
is inevitably the sheer power of its instrumental assault, it’s unquestionably not a record without dynamics—they’re just not pronounced in the same manner as peers, instead allowing brute strength to flourish and gradually fluctuate from one extreme to another. As a trade-off, there’s less of an archetypal contrast between gentler moments and opposing instances of unhinged headbanging, but how the band can subtly enhance or differentiate their explosive songwriting compensates. Much of this can be attributed to the aforementioned melodic components of the quartet’s output; their softer, somber textures balance the heaviness and prevent the LP from feeling too linear, and it’s generally from the dueling guitars that Liongeist orchestrate their transitions, with the two commonly separating into riffs that add a layer of complexity and intrigue to a given tune. A hazy ambiance imbues proceedings with a healthy dose of static, which further complements the group’s loud, abrasive approach and accentuates the melodies that clash against it. In the event Liongeist do endeavor to restrain themselves and start from the bottom, they’re proficient in orchestrating a robust build-up, with the chief example being concluding track “Heart of the Machine.” While their shifts tend to be understated level-ups of aggression—the rampaging “Third Molar” consistently finds new gears to hit, eventually erupting into an all-out blast beat assault—the band are evidently comfortable in their sonic identity regardless of their chosen tactic.
There’s nothing particularly game-changing about what the Oslo lads construct, yet their synthesis of influences comes across as refreshing rather than tiresome. It’s enjoyable to encounter a band operating under the banner of a post-genre that dismisses the possible subterfuge of build-ups and launches for the jugular, expressing their artistic intent with such confidence that it’s easy for the shadowy atmosphere to seduce any approaching listener. Banking on pure intensity pays considerable dividends; though frequently lacking the oft-described ‘journey’ aspect that’s seemingly intrinsic to this brand of music, the thrills of the Norwegian gang’s direct methodology are equally, if not more entertaining than the scene around them, and there’s a surprising amount of depth to uncover over repeated visits. The best bits of old and new, from early Russian Circles to Pelican’s fuzzy roots, find a comfortable home on Liongeist
, ultimately creating a product of various inspirations that isn’t obliged to follow in their exact footsteps—there’s less imitation involved, and the familiarity inherent to the style is never overbearing. In that regard, Liongeist demonstrate plenty of promise on their first LP; they’ve exhibited a potential to eventually carve out their own niche as their compositional talents evolve. Currently, the Norwegian band has a wonderfully fun flair for the dramatically heavy, and it makes their self-titled effort a delightful romp absent of pretense and stocked to the brim with crushing riffs.