Alex Stjernfeldt drives the monster that is Novarupta and on this, the first full length album for this project-collective effort, we’re treated to an array of great vocalists who lend their own darkness to what is actually quite an uplifting album. Much of what we have here consists of varying degrees and styles of a wall of sound punctuated by moments of clarity. In the descriptions of the project, this makes sense as the process is one of experiencing life in a desperate world and finding periods of relief.
To wit, Stjernfeldt describes the album like so, “To me, this album is the painful beauty that shines through the prisms of imperfections of mankind in a world on the verge of collapse, a journey into the dark parts of the soul and mind, but also a journey of survival, realizing that it is ok to feel this way, that you are stronger than you think. The music is drawn from these places where the esoteric oppression thrives on your psyche.”
Overall, the album finds balance amongst elements of post-metal, black, sludge, and doom. Everything about the combinations thereof in these songs feels extremely organic. Particular standout examples of this exist on the tracks “Pyroclastic Flows” and “Mare Tranquillitatis” where we are treated to guitar lines that seamlessly weave in and out to create brilliant textures and melodies underlying this immense, ominous sound. Having Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquility) lend his talents on vocals for the latter track truly does not hurt that objective at all.
In fact, much is made of this album having very good “guest” vocalists appear including Stanne, Jörgen Sandström (Krux, ex-Entombed, ex-Grave), Martin Wegeland (Domkraft), Tomas Liljedahl (ex-Breach, The Old Wind), Claudio Marino (Tid), Joel Segerstedt (The Open Up And Bleeds), Jonas A. Holmberg (This Gift Is A Curse), and Ossian Reynolds (Lola Zaza). Typically, when you have this many different vocalists appearing on an album it can take away from the overall feel and coherence. However, here every voice blends into the sound in such a way that it only augments the chaos on display.
Speaking of chaos, one of the most delightfully chaotic tracks on the record is “Only the Dirt Will Know Our Graves” where the vocals of Holmberg link up extremely well with the erratic and everchanging guitar lines simultaneously creating the kind of tension and release that feels manic in a way. This mania, if you will, keeps the listener on their toes throughout and is attention holding in so many ways. It also means the track bears more fruit with subsequent listens.
This all leads in and up to the penultimate track here, “Ourang Medan” which might just be the most daring of all the songs. Wigeland’s vocals are as close to clean as there is on the album and the guitar work here varies from an almost sparse, tangential line that evokes everything from Black Sabbath to Wire to a propulsive riff that could call to mind any number of bands in the doom genre. All of this happens while a motif plays ever so light yet persistent in the background leaving the listener emotionally exhausted yet strangely hopeful after this outpouring rounds out the experience.
Novarupta’s Disillusioned Fire is out April 29th and can be pre-ordered here.