There’s no denying that we are living in stranger times and can only thank all things within this chaotic era for music like this, something that reflects the lunacy we are dwelling amidst, during our short time on this crazy planet. It’s been a great time for musical unconventionality too and we have to wonder if we would have one thing without the other. Well we can’t go round existing in a perfect utopia and it would probably be very boring if we did. Vulture Industries from Bergen may not be as seasoned as many of the weird Scandinavian tribes who spawned out the black metal scene such as others I have been writing about recently and enjoy so much. However there was something about what they did which fitted in perfectly with the likes of Manes, Fleurety, Ved Buens Ende, In The Woods, Atrox, Virus etc and made itself evident on first exposure to ‘The Dystopia Journals’ back in 2007. 3 albums and some memorable shows down the line and Bjørnar and his bonkers band are still going strong although they really do have some serious work to do here after the towering achievement that was their last album. Admittedly this new work has taken its while to untangle and spread its thorns around me, gripping tightly and worming its way into my head but it is very much on the verge of getting there now.
Chugging bass lines and a mischievous sort of flair see these ‘Tales Of Woe’ unfold, there’s something very theatrical and vaudevillian about it all both musically and vocally as we are taken on a funfair ride where grotesqueries lurk at every twist and turn. Jaunty yet succinct it’s not as over the top as anything such as Arcturus or indeed blackened as it straddles genres and harmonic zealousness. You can comfortably settle in as it smothers you like gooey candy-floss and enjoy the ride knowing you want to get back on it as soon as it finishes but wondering what other delights wait to unveil themselves on you first. ‘As The World Burns’ is very much an odd sideshow excursion, with a distinct sleazy guitar line that could be straight out of a ZZ Top number. It’s a Luciferian ode recanted like a cautionary tale to immerse yourself within. Opening up with choral backing parts and ever clamouring harmonic croons again its subtle nuances construct from the roots up into a vitriolic proggy stomping climax. Longest number ‘Strangers’ has the feel that you have stumbled into a strange wedding ceremony about it taking in tones and flamboyant licks that are incredibly jubilant until the appearance of brass act as a more sombre and introspective counterpoint. By now you are probably scratching head and wondering just how to describe the band and put them in a box, forget it and just go with the flow, this is a magical mystery band who refuse to be pigeon-holed.
It’s like riding a wave as songs such as ‘The Beacon’ cast their light. Gentle at first, drawing you in and then surging off on a frantic plume of surf leaving you gripping on for dear life as Nilsen’s ever expressive vocals drive the pace. There’s stacks going on in the background too, listen out for the parping horns and the odd musical giddy chops. ‘My Body, My Blood’ is an incredibly eerie and ghostly interlude, it really reminds of early Code (who are very suitably supporting the band here in Nov), with its gas-lit gloomy, hymnal aura. You can imagine a killer stalking the streets and his gentle touch is unveiled on the next number as the black gloves go on and tighten their grip. There is obviously some sort of underlying narrative here, the tale is up to the listener to follow through expressive titles such as the last couple ‘Screaming Reflections’ and ‘Midnight Draws Near, be assured it’s all a ghastly potboiler with music to match. For me the penultimate grizzly number with clamouring keys and vocals hitting the rafters is probably the most immediate number but you are best off not dipping in and following it through like a real page turner all the way.
Despite the compact 45 minute running time ‘Stranger Times’ is an album that is one to completely submit to and lose yourself in. I have been enjoying it for several weeks and I doubt that is going to diminish in a hurry as it gets repeated plays and even stranger things unveil themselves along the way. As for upcoming live dates, I can’t wait to experience some of them up close and personal.
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)