Well, I wasn’t really expecting this, if I’m honest. Of course, judging a CD by its cover can be a risky business at the best of times, but upon looking at the smart monochrome cover of this package, I thought to myself, “oh, this is going to be some kind of smart-arse technical metal nonsense”. Well, dear reader, I was wrong. But I was also right, in the best possible of ways…

Jagged Vision are a Norwegian band, from Stavangar, but have little in common with the music that normally gets associated with their climes. How to explain Jagged Vision? Well, I suppose a pretty crude way of saying it would be like taking the better parts of early stoner / doom stylings of The Sword, mixing in a little raw melodic death metal from time to time, and then stirring with the left overs from a hardcore band. I know, all of that makes this sound like an album which you really wouldn’t particularly want to listen to.

Except, maddeningly enough, this strange alchemy works, and it rocks pretty hard, too. Opener “Betrayer” is equal parts swagger and solid, catchy song writing – like if the latest throat-tattoo wearing post-core ponce suddenly turned up to your shindig wearing an old denim waistcoat and a faded Saxon T-Shirt. The angular riffing that nestles alongside the supremely catchy stoner riffs are a pleasant addition to the accepted formula, and help to elevate Jagged Vision above what can, at times, be a fairly stale and dare I say it – safe – sub genre. It’s to their credit, in my view, that the band use the hardcore influences sparely but effectively. The only exception are the vocals – the kind of semi-yelped, semi-hoarse bellow that sits somewhere between effective metal effects not unlike prime Disfear, and a Jack Russell having its tail stood on by accident.

Elsewhere, the band are a pretty effective outfit. Though the guitar solos are used sparingly, they are really well done, with plenty of virtuoso playing, but never outshining the main firmament of the song, as with the excellent “Forlorn”. Production wise, this is a punchy affair, with plenty of power and bite in the mid-range, but sounds ever so slightly dry to my ears. That’s a relatively minor issue though, when compared to the song writing, which is really top notch here. I’ve had this album on heavy rotation since I got it, and bearing in mind that typically I can’t stand anything that has been sat near anything remotely hardcore, let alone has influences from that most over-rated of genres, this is all the more surprising. Yes, it has moments I think where it might occasionally stray from being interesting into a bit too smart-arsed for its own good, but generally speaking, as with the raging “I am Death”, this is a cracker.

I hope that Jagged Vision can support the album with a decent tour, or some festival appearances, because I think the translation of the energy so prevalent in the recording should come across brilliantly live. Definitely a bit of a left-field album this, and well worth your time.

(8/10 Chris Davison)