Årabrot release their sixth album under the banner of noise rock, but it’s a banner that rather sells this self-titled record short. For sure, these Norwegians make an impressive noise, and they embody the subcultural associations that the term ‘noise rock’ implies. It’s just that there seems to be a whole lot more going on here.
Bright sparks will argue that all music is technically noise, and that since Årabrot can loosely be classified as a rock band, then this is certainly noise rock. But it’s noisier than classic noise rock bands like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. Those influences can occasionally be detected here, but they’re generally drowned out in the cavalcade of industrial, metal and punk that forms the backbone of this album. Årabrot do have the slightly dirty aesthetic of noise rock though: they are apparently named after a rubbish dump in Haugesund, and their last album was entitled Solar Anus.
Some of the songs included here are very metal indeed, particularly the heavy, guttural thrash of Arrabal’s Dream, and the big riffs and black metal lyrics of the superb The Horns Of The Devil Grow – the frenzied final minute of this track is truly magnificent. With the two-minute blast of Dedication, meanwhile, they’re operating within the punk meets metal framework that was pioneered by Motörhead.
For the most part, the versatile vocals of Kjetil Nernes also owe more than a little to metal, though they sometimes contort themselves into yelped phrases which suggest that maybe he’s not expecting listeners to take him entirely seriously. The combination of such cod-falsetto throwaway lines and in your face percussion on Throwing Rocks At The Devil and Blood On The Poet recall fellow Norwegians Kaizers Orchestra, a band with whom Årabrot share a sense of theatricality.
The lyrics are in a mixture of Norwegian and English and many of them add to this sense of theatre. Opening track Ha-Satan Deofol could almost be a dark response to the 2012 Olympics soundtrack: Danny Boyle might have allowed Fuck Buttons in there, but even if Årabrot were British they’d surely not be, with lines like “Under dying Olympic flame / They dance daily round yonder maypole / They hammer nails to the cross / And the blood on the floor is yours”. Then in The Bitter Tears Of Kont there is a bizarre breakdown in which Nernes seems to be engaged in a seducation and a séance at the same time.
During the album’s second half, the sound starts to become a bit more interesting, as though we’re being taken from the primal to something resembling the avant-garde. The huge introductory riffs of Drawing Down The Moon start to judder as the vocals enter and the combination of the fast-paced arrhythmia and the whine with which Nernes inflects his voice is reminiscent of the aforementioned Sonic Youth. Maybe noise rock wasn’t such a misnomer after all.
But it’s closing track Mænads that is the most interesting offering here, and the most representative of noise rock. Again, Sonic Youth are recalled early on with droning vocals and the erratic pulse of a bass drum. But as it builds up, subtle elements of clanking percussion enter the mix, and then we hear what sounds like someone playing the James Bond theme on an organ, before a suitably dark spoken word interlude is overlaid and finally the ghost of Thurston Moore past reappears for the climax. It’s compelling enough that whether it’s noise rock, metal or industrial doesn’t seem particularly relevant.