Ever inventive and a beast with many heads a new Dodheimsgard album is always a bit of an event and one that like gigs from the group does not come about very often. It’s been eight long years since the last one and in that time there have not surprisingly been some changes in the band. Kvohst is no longer vocalist and amongst other things has been gaining quite a lot of attention with Beastmilk or Grave Pleasures as they are now known as well as the folky etched loveliness of Hexvessel. This has paved the way for the return of Aldrahn who was originally in the group from 1994-2004 and who eager eared listeners became reacquainted with recently on The Deathtrip debut album Deep Drone Master. To say he has stamped his authority all over this new album would be a real understatement. Gone are many of the more industrialised elements that the band are known for to be replaced by a very theatrical, grand-guignol, vibe both musically and vocally. Things here are twisted and avant-garde in the extreme and after an intro the album contains five massive tracks all well over the ten minute mark. Along with him founding member Vicotnik really unleashes some thorny guitar riffs that dip us straight back into the weird days of the expanding Norwegian Black metal scene where he emerged from in bands such as Ved Buens Ende and Manes. You really do need to take a deep breath before pressing play here and being prepared for an all consuming giddy ride.
‘The Love Divine’ bleeps and blips over a bit of moody saxophone and the intro reminds a bit of Fleurety even though Zweiss too is long departed from the band. It sets the mood before ‘Aphelion Void’ attacks with a massive spiralling guitar weave getting its bloody talons in over Sekaran’s burgeoning battery. When the vocals come in they are fully enthused with madness. Try taking the lyrical weirdness in as things slow down over some more sax and slow shimmering guitar parts. It’s unhinged and all somewhat delirious as well as at times bordering on the abstract. The album certainly is not all about blasting and what we have here now would fit in at some weird jazz club as well as anywhere else. At the most frenzied though it’s furious and gibbering with vocals spluttering, cackling and manically being slewed out. Before you get back to that side of things though the 15 minute track has plenty of breathing space and all sorts of things can happen including grand piano flurries, nasty screams, thick bass meandering and loads of odd time signatures. Schizophrenic is certainly the best word to describe this.
To dissect everything going on in one particular song here, let alone each individual track would completely lead to madness and a massive word count that won’t do anyone any favours. It is the moods and emotions within the music itself that are best conveyed and they certainly won’t be for everyone as they teeter right on the edge of a psychiatric lock up. I would be surprised if even some fans of the band are going to be able to take this dense, dark ride in its entirety. It could be looked on equally as a work of genius as one of lunacy, even if the two facets are intrinsically entwined. There are many times that the songs will have you chilled out and mellow, in a narcotic fug within your head but you should never be complacent within it as it won’t be long before the bipolar dash of manic activity will flurry back in. Some of the slower guitar work here sparkles and takes straight into DSBM territory sounding like they have escaped from a Shining (Swe) track at others it’s as maddening as anything dished out by their Norwegian counterparts.
Vocals are truly unique here, everything is sung clean and in English but the ranges Aldrahn hits are all over the shop and it sounds like he is orating some sort of nutty stage play as you try and get to grips with just what he is going on about. It’s really quite fragmentary as he gets into this on tracks like the sinuous and slithering ‘God Protocol Axiom.’ I say unique but at times he really reminds me of Andi Sex Gang of the Sex Gang Children an equally diverse and out there vocalist.
I’m really hoping that the band come back to London and play some of these tracks, they have only been here once before way back in Sept 2007 and if they stewed minds then they will take us really over the top with these new numbers. Even after playing the album through around ten times (that’s spending somewhere in the region of 666 minutes with it) since I got it this has easily been one of the hardest reviews I can remember writing in ages and I am going to enjoy checking out some other attempts to do so and see how befuddled it has left other scribes. Personally I don’t think I have managed to do more than scrape the smallest of layers off the surface and am looking forward to buying the finished album (as I surely must) and continuing trying to get my head around things. Everything finally leads to the most frantic and epically thorny guitar lead imaginable on ‘Blue Moon Duel’ and it’s been an utterly enthralling and baffling journey getting there. Beware this it is the stuff of nightmares following you from your dreams, reality will never the same again!
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)