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Motorpsycho - Motorpsycho & Ståle Storløkken: The Death Defying Unicorn CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

4.16 | 436 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Molde + Ståle = Masterpiece

When I see the term 'eclectic' applied to prog rock, names like Gentle Giant and Van der Graaf Generator instantly spring to mind. According to the Prog Archives guidelines, these bands present "hybrids of style and diversity of theme, promoting many elements from different sources." These variations in approach usually occur over the course of an album, but can also be found within individual composition. However, the eclectic category also "recognizes bands that evolved markedly over their career (in a progressive, evolutionary way), or have a plural style without a clear referential core."

Motorpsycho are certainly a band which falls under the latter definition. From their grungy beginnings in 1991 they have charted the waters of indie, metal, psychedelia, folk, and space rock before winding up here, in 2012, with what can only be described as a symphonic jazz odyssey!

The Death Defying Unicorn was originally commissioned by the Molde International Jazz Festival as a single composition to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2010. Since then it has been re-arranged and refined, and this two disc, 13 track epic was born. It was written in collaboration with keyboardist Ståle Storløkken (Supersilent, Elephant9), and features the ever-present Bent Sæther and Hans Magnus "Snah" Ryan, with Kenneth Kapstad on drums, and contributions from Ola Kvernberg, Trondheimsolistene and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra.

Whilst Motorpsycho are renowned for their experimental jams, and are no strangers to jazz rock, this is certainly not the band's most accessible record and some listeners may find it hard it hard to digest. It's a concept album which charts the journey of a reluctant sailor and kicks off with the abrasive instrumental, Out of the Woods. From there the structure of the album seems to mirror itself, two user friendly tracks full of hard rocking moments at the beginning (The Hollow Lands and Through the Veil), and two to close (Mutiny! and Into the Mystic).

I have no doubt that these outstanding moments will please most Motorpsycho fans, it's what happens in-between which may cause the problem. Like most concept albums it is designed to be listened to from start to finish and considered as a whole, but the "lost at sea" midsection of The Death Defying Unicorn might present a bit of a lull for some listeners. However, I find this to be the most interesting part of the album, the minimalistic approach ebbs and flows, simultaneously curious and sombre.

It's quite hard to pinpoint the sound of this album, it certainly has Motorpsycho's character embedded throughout, but at other times it's more like The Mahavishnu Orchestra, or an even more experimental style of jazz which wouldn't sound out of place on an art house film score. Overall it is an ambitious, exceptional achievement and whilst it's impossible to compare Motorpsycho albums directly, this may well be their finest hour.

The Verdict: 'The Wall', 'Quadrophenia' and 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway' now have some serious competition for the prestigious title of best "monochromaticdoubleconceptalbum".

Starhammer | 5/5 |


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