SEVEN IMPALE - Contrapasso
Two and a half years ago, Norwegian sextet Seven Impale released their debut longplayer City Of The Sun to huge acclaim within the progressive rock community. I somehow missed out on them back then but later found out that this was one of the few bands that still manage to make the genre sound interesting. As a matter of fact, a frequent problem of the genre is that bands either adhere to strongly to the vintage vibe or just head into a too modern direction that lacks any empathy to its roots.
On their new album Contrapasso, Seven Impale quite perfectly find the right balance between playing around with new ideas and grounding themselves to the genreís pioneers, in their case especially early Seventies sax driven bands like King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator. The latter is a funny reference, considering that they used to be signed to the famous Charimsa label, and Seven Impale to the Norwegian label Karisma. Coincidence or something more, I truly donít know.
The nine songs on Contrapasso are subdivided into two four track segments of a little over half an hour, separated by the short instrumental Ascension. The opener Lemma is a nine-minute behemoth that shows off everything Seven Impale have to offer. In fact they seem to have a certain vintage hard rock sound, with a lot of organ sounds, psychedelic effects and even certain occult leanings. The vocals are generally quite forceful, unlike the more fragile tendencies of their Seventies influences, setting them apart from the past so that they donít end up sounding like mere copycats. The first half of the album feels more traditional, although the songsí generous lengths between seven and nine minutes allow of course for a lot of details just waiting to be discovered. I especially like how the band finds a way to add a really catchy chorus into Inertia, and also the strange elements on Languor reminding me of the sublime Knifeworld.
The albumís second half is even more adventurous, with Convulsion being a really heavy track with complex rhythms, and with five minutes also the shortest regular song on the album. The nine-minute-long Helix begins with an atonal Casio melody that gradually gets encompassed by a matching melody played by the regular instruments, creating a weird effect of music and not exactly music. Quite a daring feat that they manage to pull through here. The seven-minute-long Serptentstone goes back to more traditional prog sounds with a heavy dose of mellotrons and a good hard rocking guitar, before the album ends with the eleven-minute monster Phoenix where the first four minutes are definitely not out of this world. In fact the band emulates an acid drenched techno beat by playing their regular instruments and adding speech samples that are mistreated with the weirdest effects. This is where past and future make for something truly progressive.
Norway has never had the big music scenes like Sweden or even metal dominated Finland, but the few bands that made it have always stood out as exceptionally great. And some of these may even have left their traces with Seven Impale. Take the jazziness of Jaga Jazzist, add a pinch of the black jazz indulgence of Shining, blend with the alternative progginess of Motorpsycho, then combine with the aforementioned prog pioneers from the early Seventies, and you get an inkling of what to expect. And yet it must be said that Seven Impale do their own thing, have their eyes firmly set to the future with their feet grounded in their roots. And this is what makes Contrapasso such an enjoyable ride.