Prior to the surprise emergence of a track on a 7” vinyl last year, the last time we heard anything from unique Progressive project Noekk was way back in 2008 with their album “The Minstrel’s Curse”. So why the sudden urge for Funghus Baldachin and F. F. Yugoth (otherwise known as Empyrium’s Helm and Schwadorf ) to resurrect Noekk? Well, it appears to have been inspired by the poetry of Peter Wolfgang Kassel, so with the lyrical content nailed down the music was allowed to flow from there.
Noekk’s previous three albums had been steadily taking a more and more Progressive/Avant-garde direction, which was gradually diluting and twisting their initial sound – truly progressive you might argue, but whether it is down to the lyrics or the mood of the two musicians involved, there is a definite shift sideways/back towards a more melancholy sound, which suits the vocals and delivery of the songs very well. For the two people involved in the band, there also has to be a relevance to Noekk’s existence, somewhere they can fit into the musicians other projects without borrowing from, or clouding other ventures which also is the case here. Because it’s not like Funghus (Helm) has been sitting on his thumbs, busy as he has been with other endeavours but when you note that F.F. (Schwadorf) is also in Deinonychus, Empyrium, Eudaimony, Ewigheim, Sun of the Sleepless and The Vision Bleak, the ten year wait for new Noekk material starts to make even more sense.
Out of the list of bands above, there is maybe a little of The Vision Bleak in Noekk’s sound due to the gothic, low vocal approach, and it also has passages that evoke Empyrium’s gorgeous soundscapes, but that’s probably about it on an internal comparison level. This is an album produced on its own validity, which on the whole reminds me of a more progressive version of Lake Of Tears (“Forever Autumn”, “Crimson Cosmos” and previous), as they had that doom-tinged melancholy mixed with a classic early 70’s prog rock influence (King Crimson, very early Genesis etc). The clever use of Hammond/Keys further enforces the progressive edge of a Noekk album that skips tempos, flavours, styles and attitudes as Noekk have always done. No one track sticks out…because no one track is supposed to. The listener is encouraged, even enticed to take the entire journey with Noekk, latching on to different sections and passages – which is certainly a rewarding process.
This is not a Metal album, but then, it’s not trying to be – it’s nearer Progressive Hard Rock in many places, and it has an Opeth style unpredictability about it that will certainly appeal to open minded Prog Metal fans. I’m pretty sure it will delight previous fans of Noekk as well as Empyrium devotees. It’s a little less challenging than the Noekk of 10 years ago, but then maybe that is the reason there has been little recorded output since then. Noekk had to be re-imagined to give them a relevance and make the members behind the project want to give their time and energy to it – and thank goodness they did! Noekk have been re-invented, with just enough of their intricate past evident within the interesting and intriguing present to tie this album in with the rest. Hopefully the next instalment will arrive a little sooner than this one took?
(8/10 Andy Barker)