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Smell Of Incense - Through The Gates Of Deeper Slumber CD (album) cover


Smell Of Incense


Prog Folk

4.15 | 32 ratings

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4 stars Smell of Incense are a quirky band from Norway who blend 60/70's psychedelic rock, acid folk, progressive and even electronic dance influences into a frequently messy but always fascinating original style all their own. With a band made up of some very curious characters (I mean, check out their names!) you get a wide variety of modern and classic influences, alternating male/female vocalists, and hippie/middle eastern elements. The band, fortunately, don't take themselves too seriously either! Their second album, `Through The Gates Of Deeper Slumber' takes lyrics from the books of four different fantasy writers and puts them amongst a heady brew of different styles and amazing sounds.

Along with the first Clearlight album, I don't think I've ever heard the Mellotron used so much and so often! Whether it's choir, flute, or strings (sometimes two at once), it's plastered over just about every inch of this album, and there's even a few solos with it! One of the only other cases of this I can remember off the top of my head is on Camel's `Never Let Go'! More, please, other prog artists! So in other words, Mellotron masochists, you know what album to look into tracking down next.

The centerpiece of the album is the side-long 25 minutes piece `A Floral Treasury'. This epic drifts through a huge range of sounds and styles, and is split into three different sections. With fairy tale-like lyrics throughout, the track begins with a wall of dirty real-deal Mellotron, (not some clean emulator!), seemingly utilizing some sort of woodwind sound, backed with an unsettling funereal drum beat with pulsing electronics not far from the first side of Klaus Schulze's `Timewind'. Soon after sitar and tabla enter, followed by female singer Bumble B's droning and imploring vocals, very mantra like! A dizzying and spiraling mess of backwards guitar swirls amongst a vacuum of Mellotron, sounding not unlike the eerie menace of the first Zone Six album. There's pounding drums that will drive you mad, before morphing into dancey programmed beats trying to break through the waves of 'Tron and slightly funky guitar. Great female vocals float through the now clubby vibe, with droning and harsh electric guitars, almost sounding industrial, before a very bent and off sounding Mellotron solo! There's a brief ambient break, with eerie flute Mellotron, very psychedelic before the final section kicks in. Sounding not unlike early Barrett/Pink Floyd with choir Mellotron and a fairly awful flat high-pitched vocal from Bumble B, there's a lovely dreamy quality to the actual melody, and she's eventually joined by male vocals (not sure which member, though). The finale has an unpleasant and whirling circus melody that spins around in circles that is quite maddening, before a reprise of the dirty Mellotron orchestral sounding intro. In the end, this piece is an endlessly inventive and daringly unique blend of styles and ideas.

`Columbine Confused' sounds like a lost 60's psych pop acid folk gem, topped off with great upbeat male/female vocals. It has a stomping beat and snarly guitar, and of course is packed to the gills with Mellotron! There's also a mixed up loud and proud repeated Mellotron solo in place of an actual traditional vocal chorus! I kind of love the arrogance of it all - "We don't need no freakin' chorus with words, we've got a 'Tron!!!"

`A Word In Season' has a renaissance/medieval folk feel, with lovely harpsichord and classical influences throughout. The track is kind of na´ve and incoherent, sometimes seeming like a bunch of fragments thrown together, and despite some inconsistent vocals, there's a childlike and hypnotic quality to it.

`From The Third Hemisphere' has another killer dirty murky repeated Mellotron melody/theme, the instrument really seems to sing on this one! There's slightly awkward and charmingly accented male lead vocals, with an upbeat poppy middle section with Bumble B's multi-tracked harmonies sounding amazing and joyful. There's an endless haze of instrumental variety throughout the bulk of this piece, with a dancing violin theme, weeping and wonky sax breaks, grinding bendy guitar playing that sounds quite like Steve Hackett, and some gorgeous `Saucerful' era Gilmour guitar.

While I find this album really outstanding, it's occasionally unsuccessful in trying to throw so many different styles together, with some of the longer sections suffering slightly. However, it's kind of in keeping with the psychedelic, lysergic tone of the album and the different personality and influences of the individual band members. Some listeners may not enjoy what they find to be an uncomfortable addition of modern dance influences on the side long piece, but that's one of the things that makes the album so memorable. However, this sound has not been used again before or since the release of this album by the band, which is a bit of a shame.

Special mention must be made to the exquisite front cover painting. Strange that the Archives picture here seems to show the back cover (still good, but the proper front cover is unbelievable!). All of the Smell of Incense albums having amazing artwork, and it's become quite a recognizable trademark of the band. Really wish I'd snapped up a vinyl copy of this one - which I've made sure to do with all the band's later releases.

Although able to be proud of their other releases, Smell of Incense, through embracing their vintage influences and adding modern elements and sounds, released probably their best and most daring album with `Through The Gates...', with frequently stunning results. It's certainly their most defining musical statement to date.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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