May 2020 has been quite a progressively influenced month for me on Ave Noctum. It all started with the unique melancholic progressive flavourings of Green Carnation, Thoughts Factory were next with traditional Progressive Metal, Horisont came at it next, chucking all sorts into their psyche rock mix at the other end of the spectrum, and hot on their heels are the fabulously named Shaman Elephant, with their own particular blend of Psychedelic Progressive Rock. All these bands are so completely different to each other, but all get a progressive tag. However, fans of late 60’s Psychedelia and 70’s Progressive Hard Rock step forward – Shaman Elephant are for you!

To delve further into their intricate, complex sound, let’s take a starting point from parts of Deep Purple’s “Fireball” and move on from there – it’s as good a place as any! The keyboards take the lead more than in Purple here, and there’s more of a 60’s vibe to the vocals – Rod Evans rather than Ian Gillan if I was to continue the loose Purple metaphor. The progressive nature of the songs then leave Purple behind and hint at King Crimson right through to maybe Camel or Caravan at times, but all held together and personalised with a wonderful modern groove. It’s such a melting pot that the band have to choose from, that this modern interpretation can have similarities to other current acts, but other than touches of modern Opeth in the wonderfully quirky ‘Ease Of Mind’ and a similar approach at times to the recent Sisare release, I’ll leave it up to each individual listener to decide what Shaman Elephant conjure up for them.

If you’re looking for (or hoping for) uncomfortable time-changes and jazz-infused arrangements then I’m happy (from a personal point of view) to report that Shaman Elephant are not for you. There’s a smoothness and flow to the songs here, that whilst certainly progressive in nature with much going on to keep plenty of interest on different levels for further listens, the cohesion each track puts forward is very refreshing. A leaning towards groove and melody based around intelligent arrangements seems to be the bands ultimate goal – so if this was their intention, mission accomplished! This Norwegian 4 piece work so well as a unit, it’s surprising to learn that this is only their second album, such is the sense that you get of the guitars and keys knowing just what the rhythm section are about to do. There’s a total honesty about this album that shines through, a feeling of a group of like-minded musicians jamming away in a little rehearsal room, honing their songs week after week – just how it used to be. Shaman Elephant have totally nailed the sound and feeling they were going for on this album and taken it further, producing something varied, interesting and very enjoyable indeed!

(8/10 Andy Barker)