Every band seeks to carve its own path, yet so few attain this goal with considerable success given the breadth of influence available and inherent in most modern music. However, Norway’s Årabrot has managed to do so over the course of 20 years, with Norwegian Gothic standing as perhaps the band’s most definitive creative statement – an effervescently noisy mix of post-punk and alt. rock textures. Each track plays with a processional fervor delivering sermons on the true nature of our hidden selves, Kjetil “Tall Man” Nernes and Karin “Dark Diva” Park building a musical cathedral within which these secrets can be revealed.
“Carnival of Love” sets the tone as Park’s effulgent voice howls splendidly atop powerful drumming and a grimy, strutting bass line that can’t help but recall the raspy bite of Killing Joke mixed with Pink Floyd’s earlier experimental flights of fancy. Tracks like “Feel It On,” “The Lie,” and “(This Is) The Night” bristle with urgency and upset, their strident rhythms engaging in their punklike fury, but disconcerting in just how accessible their melodies are, Nernes’ emotive wail sounding like a cross between Gary Numan and Chris Connelly. The record’s psychedelic predilections continue to resonate by way of Mellotron strings augmenting tracks like the aforementioned “Carnival of Love,” the confrontational “Kinks of the Heart,” the pseudo-industrial thrust of “Deadlock,” the mechanical yet bluesy discord of “The Moon is Dead,” and the galloping and gritty “Hailstones For Rain,” the latter’s keyboards and swirling instrumental and vocal layers making for a delicious display of art rock. The same can be said of “Hard Love” as the vocal harmonization between Park and Nernes is nothing short of exquisite, even as the melodic string refrain runs the risk of repetitious annoyance. “Hallucinational” is particularly noteworthy as it presents an eerie ambience of light organs, lap steel guitar, and more of those Mellotron strings, with Park’s voice fluttering emotively to recall the Twin Peaks theme, while the funky disco snarl of “The Rule of Silence” is given added weight with the flippantly ironic chorus of “I abide by the rule of silence.”
Although the record doesn’t especially conjure any notions or images of the band’s homeland, Norwegian Gothic resonates with a virulently polemic tone that adheres to Årabrot’s philosophy that “rock & roll is our religion.” Even without the cover art, one can just envision Kjetil Nernes and Karin Park adorned in the welcoming white of holiness, subsequently stained red and black with the vicious, bloody sneer of embracing noisy dissension. As an amalgam of all that Årabrot has resented up to this point, Norwegian Gothic may not necessarily be the band’s best record, but it’s a more than adequate gateway into their artistic esoterica.