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Noekk - The Water Sprite CD (album) cover

THE WATER SPRITE

Noekk

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.30 | 14 ratings

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TCat
4 stars Noekk is a continuation of the doom metal band Empyrium. The two musicians responsible for the band play all of the instruments between the two of them. The name Noekk comes from folklore about a water creature that can change into a beautiful white horse who gets human riders and then carries them to their death in the water. The music veers away from metal exploring way beyond its boundaries, but remains dark.

The band's first album is "The Water Sprite". The topic of the lyrics has mostly to do with dark folklore. Most of the music is spontaneous with a fairly free structure, but cohesive enough to avoid a lot of dissonance. It is quite accessible as far as progressive music goes, while being complex enough to keep your interest.

The title track starts off the album with a harpsichord solo which is suddenly interrupted by a quick drum riff and the music takes off. When vocals start, you get your first taste of the sound of Thomas Helm's voice which can be somewhat pompous and almost operatic at times, and at others, a low breathy tone, not really a growl, but close. The music itself is heavy progressive with a complex and changing time signature and plenty of guitars and keyboards to make any prog-head happy.

"T.B.'s Notion" starts off soft with a single guitar that quickly gets joined by vocals in a deep underdeveloped, yet rich voice with lyrics written by J.R.R. Tolkien adapted to an interesting melody. This one remains mostly slow and soft with a mellotron added in later. The melody is not a standard structure and seems to be somewhat improvised.

"Strange Mountain" starts with an electric piano, sounding somewhat like Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter". Subdued vocals start shortly after. At around 2 minutes there is a slight build, then it kicks into a mid tempo rhythm with a lot of mellotron and other keyboards with a flute effect, and the vocals become more dramatic. It continues to get better as it goes and the music becomes more complex. There is a sudden switch to a Deep Purple/Uriah Heep sound midway through when an organ comes in. The drums are also quite excellent adding to the complexity of the track. A theme keeps returning through the track.

Next is "How Fortunate the Man with None", a Dead Can Dance cover. It follows the original quite faithfully, except you get to hear it with Thomas' slightly operatic vocals. It is a decent cover that expands just a little on the original as far as the instruments and a little more vocal inflection, but stays pretty faithful with its great lyrics and repeating melody.

"Fiery Flower" starts with an early King Crimson vibe with mellotron and flute. After a minute, it changes to a more dramatic, neo-progressive sound when the full band and vocals start. There is a nice "Opeth" sounding instrumental interlude.

"Moonface is Dead" starts with a soft guitar and echoing effects with mellotron and vocals. This is a slow yet short track. I do have a hard time with the vocals on slower tracks like this one, when he really shines is on the more dramatic and complex passages in other tracks. Fortunately, it's only just over 4 minutes, but even then it meanders too much.

"Riddle Seeker" surpasses the 10 minute mark and ends the album on a high note. You get the full band from the start, playing a great progressive sound. Vocals come in early. Even after the first minute, you notice a complex and changing sound as a new theme is introduced by the bass and then repeated by guitars. This is quite a dynamic track, always changing and complex with tempo and meter changes and several thematic and improvised elements.

This is quite a great album overall, but some might be turned off initially by the dramatic vocals. This is not a huge drawback, because you do become accustomed to them after a while. There are places where things don't move smoothly, but again, the musicianship is excellent and indicative of greater things to come. However, with these minor issues, this is a very dynamic and progressive album, a little on the dark side, but I wouldn't consider it depressing at all. With a lot of complexities, yet staying mostly accessible in progressive terms, this album does have a lot to offer progressive lovers. Since it is quite dynamic, you can expect a lot of both quiet and heavy moments throughout. With only one really weak track, this reaches about 3.5 stars, but I can easily bump this up to 4 stars as it gets more appealing the more you listen to it.

TCat | 4/5 |

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