Kjetil Nernes and Karin Park have never been content to sit idly in the proverbial house on the lake, as throughout their tenure in Årabrot, the Norwegian duo has challenged societal norms and religious ideals with an almost evangelical zeal of their own. Of Darkness and Light is the band’s tenth studio effort, which sees them taking these themes to greater lengths of self-examination and reflection.
From the onset of entrancing synths and strident rhythms of the opening “Hangman’s House,” the duo forges an assertive and incendiary brand of post-rock that, although not a significant divergence from past output, is distinctly Årabrot. Throughout Of Darkness and Light, the band plays with an exalts in keeping the listener in a tense and unsettled state, contrasting hypnotically catchy melodies with a kind of unbridled fury that wouldn’t be out of place in the heaviest metal. For example, “Cathedral Light” seethes forcefully in the verses, but takes on a deceptively light and ironically anthemic tone in the chorus, the appearance of a child’s voice repeating “Fuck yeah” in the bridge and coda adding a welcome but arresting touch of whimsy. The same can be said of “We Want Blood,” its stomping beat and dissonant riffs reminiscent of The Tea Party given an added rawness by the residual harmonic squeaks of the guitar along with the titular roars and chanting background vocals. Repetition plays a key role in the album’s insidious and acerbic tone, “You Cast Long Shadows” and especially “Madness” being prime examples, with the latter’s caustic bass and drumbeats striking with a locomotive ferocity, while the shouts of “Fire!” are almost like a siren unto themselves, suitable to its poignantly disquieting lyrics. Songs like “Horrors of the Past” and “Skeletons Trip the Light Fantastic” take on a somewhat grungy ‘90s vibe, the offbeat play of psychedelic electronics and organic beats and guitars sometimes creating a spooky ambience that belies an inherent pop accessibility to the choral melodies. Similarly, the slithering organs and gritty stabs of guitar on “Swan Killer” sound like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins on another voodoo kick, despite harmonized “Hallelujahs.”
As stated, Of Darkness and Light doesn’t stray too far from the processional character of Årabrot’s past output; rather, with the added prowess of acclaimed producer Alain Johannes, the band approaches this tenth album with a necessary refinement and polish that emphasizes the Nietszchean themes of overcoming limitations. Zarathustra… I mean, Årabrot has spoken.