When it comes to Norwegian bands, it’s not all Black Metal, church burning, make-up and murder for the offence of wearing white t-shirts. Not that you’d know it from the cover of Emmerhoff’s latest album, because there they all are, the Melancholy Babies, all decked out in black, looking deadly serious and standing in front of some dead trees.
Mind you, they’ve apparently found distribution with the UK’s Plastichead, home of Black Metal heavyweights Emperor, so perhaps this kind of cover artwork is mandatory.
You won’t find any gargled epithets to Beelzebub here though, for Emmerhoff are ploughing an entirely different furrow. There is certainly a rock element to this album, although the blues soaked riff that kicks off opening track Meltdown could lead you to believe that you’re about to be dragged on a full on frenzy of rock, and indeed, roll. A fuzzed up bass then takes the lead, and Gunnar Emmerhoff’s vocals drip themselves lavishly across the song.
This is about as far from youthful punk exuberance as you can get, but as elements of prog rock begin to creep in, and the song builds you are left with a definite sense of an assured swagger. Sticks and Stones continues where Meltdown left off; the raucous prog/blues feel to the album, replete with banjo breaks presenting you with something of a musical red-herring.
At this point the band must have stopped recording for a quick spliff, because things quickly become a lot more spaced out and calm. Afterglow would be a folk song, were it not drenched in reverb and filled with unusual sound effects that almost appear inaudible at times. Black Mark is a similarly laid back affair, a layer of e-bowed lapsteel guitar lends an almost haunting quality to a song that somehow blends the likes of dEUS and Blind Melon in the most pleasing way possible.
Their cover of the Portishead track Cowboys is nothing short of genius. They’ve have retained the original’s menace, but Emmerhoff’s vocals have added considerable muscle. Covers can be of course be hugely disappointing affair, with many a band failing to add a unique twist to the original track, and missing an opportunity. Not so here, their take is inventive and genuinely exciting.
Throughout this album stoned prog styled folk tunes trade licks with blues rock stompers, providing immediate thrills, whilst repeated listens reveal a record teeming with clever song writing and deft production. The seemingly endless finale of Major/Minor is worth the entrance fee alone, majestically taking the creepiness of the Rentaghost theme tune and forcing into the shape of a repetitive drone.
Electric Reverie is definitely worth investing some time in; you could well find yourself getting lost in an album as rich and as interesting as this.