Review Summary: While not yet a sum of their Porcupine Tree and Opeth influences, this is still worth a listen if you're looking for lush prog rock with an edge.
Looking at the band name and album cover, you’d be forgiven for assuming Avkrvst are another Norwegian black metal band or maybe post black metal, at best. What you probably wouldn’t assume is that they’re actually a modern prog band heavily influenced by In Absentia
-era Porcupine Tree and Ghost Reveries
-era Opeth. If you’re familiar with those bands, you can probably almost hear The Approbation
in your head already. Soft crooning vocals, chill atmospheric prog rock, extraordinary demonstrations of musicianship that remain centered on songwriting, swaths of vocal harmonies, classy guitar solos, and a warm full production. The Opeth comparison is equally as obvious. It’s the dark undercurrent, specific guitar and keyboard tones, the cyclical delivery of the heavier riffs, and the (very) rare use of death metal vocals. Each song is dominated by the Porcupine Tree influences, but they bring in the Opeth style often enough to make The Approbation
more than a PT homage.
If there is a problem with The Approbation
, it’s less that the band wears their influences on their sleeves, and more that they’re just not the sum of their parts just yet. This isn’t much of a problem on the first four (relatively) short tracks. While the songwriting lacks the hooks and staying power to truly blow you away, within each song’s five-to-six minute runtime there’s enough going on to hold your attention and even bring you back for more. Pre-release song “The Pale Moon” makes excellent use of its melancholic atmosphere, and the eerie synth line is a highlight for me, but the melodies and hooks need to be just a bit more to sit next to its influences. Where the songwriting becomes more of an issue is on the ten- and thirteen-minutes closing tracks. Don’t get me wrong, there are some cool parts such as the chaotic first five minutes and lush final two minutes of “Anodyne”, but overall, these two tracks suffer from too much time and not enough substance.
Minor songwriting criticisms aside, The Approbation
is a great debut album that should appeal to anyone missing that modern Porcupine Tree sound or to a lesser extent, the classic Opeth style. The shorter tracks demonstrate enough depth and intrigue to capture your attention, but the longer tracks suffer from a duration-vs-substance problem (not unlike Opeth, really). Nonetheless, Avkrvst's potential shines through, and with further refinement, they have the ability to create a compelling musical identity beyond mere homage. In the meantime, The Approbation
is well worth a listen for anyone looking for some lush prog rock with an edge.