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Seven Impale - Contrapasso CD (album) cover


Seven Impale


Eclectic Prog

3.89 | 117 ratings

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4 stars The future of progressive rock music is in excellent hands if it stays in the hands of young rockers like Norway's Seven Impale. 2014's City of the Sun was undeniably one of that year's best albums, but this one is better! Far more adventurous, experimental, confident (if that's possible), and bold. The band's infatuation with computer, electronic and radio-like sounds (sometimes in a way quite similar to the work of Holger CZUKAY in the 80s) is one area in which they have really branched out. The other would be in the variety of styles, sounds, and effects used for Stian ěkland's vocals. Both of these changes are, to my ears and mind, very positive and only help prove the growth and adventurous nature that the band is going through. Growth--and change--is GOOD!

1. "Lemma" (8:59) has a very pretentious feel of melodrama not unlike that of DISCIPLINE or BLACK SABBATH--only here, with Seven Impale, I take it all tongue in cheek--all for fun; for the band's amusement as well as ours. Musically, the song is a perfect vehicle for the melodrama taking place but then, out of the blue, there is a wonderful shift at the 6:15 mark which feels like it is a saving grace for all of the bombast that has come before. Awesome stuff! I love it! Great song! (10/10)

2. "Heresy" (7:16) opens feeling familiar in sound to City of the Sun though the melodic movement is more jazzy. When the vocals enter the 'old' Seven Impale is cast aside and we are brought into a world that is more farcical, more Tim Burtonesque. The song quickly develops into a storytelling vehicle in the same vein as MOTORPSYCHO's The Death Defying Unicorn, only compacted into a single, seven minute song. At the three minute mark there is the "Doldrums/Flotsam/Sculls in Limbo"-like interlude, followed by a spirited return to full dynamic force a minute later. If I hadn't heard TDDU I might give a little more credit to Seven Impale here--though their intent may just have been to show the world that an entire 80-minute rock opera could be adequately fit into a seven minute song. (8/10) 3. "Inertia" (9:09) opens with some eerie piano, bass, guitar noises, with drums before sax shows up to throw everybody in line with a nice staccato rhythm progressing over a cycle of several key changes. The vocals on Contrapasso, overall, are quite different than their debut--quite a bit more diverse and using quite a variety of effects--which I like. The band's growth, adventurousness and confidence must be very high. A very nice elongated REINE FISKE-like guitar solo in the third and fourth provides a buffer between the first and second vocal verses. The next instrumental interlude is awesome. In some ways similar to both "God Left Us for a Black-Dressed Woman" and, again, MOTORPSYCHO's The Death-Defying Unicorn, and yet completely its own. Here is where I notice that this album includes a much greater presence and use of spacey keyboards, effected instrumental notes (from piano, percussives, synths or guitars Excellent song. A top three and probably my favorite full-length song on the album. (10/10)

4. "Langour" (7:39) opens like a djenty song from LEPROUS or even MOTORSPYCHO--even when the organ, saxes, synths and vocalized melody join in. At 1:45 things quiet down into an ominously spacious, pregnantly potentialized jazz song. Stian ěkland's familiar voice enters fifteen seconds later with the force and presence of JIM MORRISON. At the three minute mark the music stops and we are left with only an irritating high pitched squeal and some wobbly guitar notes picked individually and intermittently. The vocal finish sounds almost like church choir-like--and then, to top it off, a church organ and tubular bells-like keyboard enter to finish the song! Theatric and wonderful! (9/10)

5. "Ascension" (1:37) uses a guitar (and, later, harmonizing piano) to spaciously recreate the arpeggio that formed the main melody for the instrumental exit jam from their last album's epic masterpiece, "God Left Us for a Black- Dressed Woman." Perfect title! Awesome idea! (10/10)

6. "Convulsion" (5:05) is, as the song's title indicates, a vehicle for the conveyance of some heavy stoner rock sonic convulsions. The echoed and delayed multiple-voice vocal delivery and shifts in song direction and style every minute or so also plays into the health-threatening feel of this music. The fourth major shift, into a kind of TOBY DRIVER postlude of psychedelia is odd and unexpected but effective when paired with the phrenetic predecessor and the typical end of peace and calm that follows a convulsive attack. I really like the tight, compressed feel of the first two thirds of this song. (9/10) 7. "Helix" (9:16) opens with synth bass and drum time kept on a hi-hat. The group vocal that joins in creates another KAYO DOT-like sonic environment. While not as starkly earth-shaking as the typical Toby Driver delivery, there is an effective mood conveyed here--one that feels as if it is slowly building in potential energy ready to be released in some kinetic explosion. Then, at the four minute mark, things quiet down (the calm before the storm?) for about a minute before, yes, the caldera blows. Hoarse, screaming vocals add the icing to the cake, until, just as suddenly, at the six minute mark everything settle back into a quiet, resting mode--though the melodies and chords interjected by the bass, keys, and saxes are quite ominous--quite filled with warning of more doom impending. Even the piano interlude in the eighth minute holds so much warning. Again, it's like the calm before the storm. But then, oddly, the music switches to solo treated organ and the crescendo never recurs. Until the opening of the next song... Not a bad song, it just feels unresolved and incomplete. (8/10)

8. "Serpentstone" (7:20) opens quite heavily and then downshifts into a really nice, full-band ominous groove. This groove turns into a nice multi-layered instrumental section in which synths, saxes, and guitars are weaving within a deep, dark subterranean tapestry. A great vocal takes over. Again I must reiterate how remarkable it is that the effects and stylings of Stian's voice are so different from City of the Sun. Cool song! One that I know will continue to grow on me with repeated listens. (9/10)

9. "Phoenix" (11:14) opens almost like a 1970s hip-hop rap with a bouncy melody line in the low end while chopped and echoed vocals from some British television comedy show (or shows) play along with. The vocal sample track comes to an end at the three minute mark as a female voice says, "This is just freaking me out," which is then immediately followed by a deep male voice laughing, "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!" The odd carnival-ish hip hop synthetic rhythm continues while sax and other instruments join into the mix. It all seems so until 5:25 mark when heavy bass, guitar, and drum riffs enter and establish dominance. When synths join the song takes on a bit of a JAGA JAZZIST Starfire sound/feel to it. The final two minutes find the song meandering into the realm of space-radio wave soundscapes. Interesting. This one, I have to admit, does not please me. I feel as if the band has almost wasted some of my time--11:14 of it, to be precise. Too bad. (6/10)

My long-lasting question after listening to Contrapasso a couple of times is: Are the boys intentionally showing off their influences? And, if so, are they doing so out of respect or out of an attitude of "anything they can do we can do, too (. . . if not better)???

Not quite as consistently high as their debut album but I definitely like the fearless exploratory nature of the band's energy here--and I hope the mixed reviews are not enough to discourage the band from continuing to experiment, take risks and grow.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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