Album Review: ÅRABROT The Gospel
Årabrot have in recent years morphed from a band that graduated from its initial roots in noise rock and post-hardcore to a slightly more sophisticated alchemy of sludge and doom metal, and finally emerged on the other side retracing back to the band's early post-hardcore influences but this time shedding the noise rock in favor of a cleaner, more accessible post-punk sound. The musical chairs format betrays a band too restless to stay put, remaining – for the purposes of this site's target audience, anyway – simpatico enough with the genre of heavy metal to draw ears while pointing beyond the genre to much bigger sonic ideas.
The Gospel is the band's first full length album in three years, but Årabrot have mucked about a fair amount with the EP/single format in the interim, the brevity of which if anything seems better suited to the band's restless muse. At 42 minutes, The Gospel remains cohesive while never coming off like too much of a good thing, though the 10-minute album centerpiece "Faustus" takes long enough to get going that its first half does add a bit of unnecessary latency to a pacing that has until then been fairly brisk, if not out-and-out peppy. The back half of that track does boats a great, Melvins-like doom riff, though, so fingers off that "skip" button.
Vocalist K:N, a.k.a. Kjetil Nernes, who has adjusted his singing over the years to complement Årabrot's fluctuating genre explorations, here vacillates between the declarative nasal tones of old Gary Numan and early era Snake from Voivod. "Ah Feel" in particular evokes the latter during Voivod's War and Pain era of dabbling in sloppy sci-fi thrash, although in that case Kvelertak vocalist Erlend Hjelvik was enlisted to guest sing. "And the Whore Is This City" finds K:N pulling off a weird grunt that sounds like Sid Vicious singing for Killing Joke. That song represents the album's strongest showing of 80's industrial influences, though undercurrents of it run through the fraught post-punk of "I Run" and jagged goth of "Darkest Day" as well.
Though stylistically adventurous, the unifying thread across The Gospel lies in adherence to an interrelated group of early-to-mid 1980's musical genres, namely the aforementioned splinter groups that fractured off from the trunk of post-punk's root. Though no two adjacent tracks sound a whole lot like each other, it nonetheless reads like a credible greatest hits album by a band who spent the 1980's cycling through that decade's succession of genre innovations. Indeed, not only was the album partially recorded at Steve Albini's studio in Chicago, but also features musical contributions from decade veterans Ted Parsons (Killing Joke, Swans) on drums and Andrew Liles (Current 93, Nurse With Wound) assisting on guitar (Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley also shows up to lend a sympathetic hand). The added bits of heaviness are really the album's only nods toward modernity, though it remains to be seen whether this nearly exhaustive overview of underground 80's sounds represents Årabrot's final dabbling in the era or simply the tip of a new iceberg.