Given the relatively sparse population of Scandinavia, it seems that everyone living in the land of the Vikings must know someone in a band, such is the vast size and scope of the area’s music scene. In this genre-obsessed world, psychedelic rock is of course well covered out there in the hinterland of the Arctic Circle, and probably the Daddy of that particular brood are the marvellously monikered Motorpsycho. Apologies for the alliteration, it was too good to not use, and with a name like that, they can hardly fail to please, can they?! And so we arrive at this macho looking troupe’s winningly titled Here Be Monsters.
After the short treated piano intro piece, beneath the murkily psychedelic West Coast vibe of Lacuna/Sunrise lurks some very dark verse: this band are Scandinavian after all. The sweetness and light of the song, whose title and melody obliquely references the Sabs tune of similar name, is in stark contrast to “the taste of blood’s metallic spray, the snot, the dry crusted gunk feels like clay, keeps rattling ’round my brain”, sung in a dreamy fashion. This all nestles snugly amid the unwinding and warm ensemble melody, later taking a turn into some languid guitar gently lapping the shores in acidic introspection, getting the 18th album (not counting collaborative releases) from these heavy looking Norwegians off to a more than promising start. As I only mounted this particular pillion around the time of Heavy Metal Fruit, by my reckoning the 14th album in the list, it seems I have some catching up to do.
Merging seamlessly into Running With Scissors, the laid-back vibe continues, very much the calm before the storm. I.M.S. visits more familiar Motorpsycho territory as it charges along in the midst of gleeful heavy metal thunder before crashing through the barriers. Marvellous stuff! The band admits that their cover of Terry Callier’s Spin, Spin, Spin owes a big debt to the H.P. Lovecraft version, but the Nordic warriors add their own easily identifiable accent to the west coast message. The almost orchestral arrangements here, and later on Big Black Dog are no doubt down to the influence of Ståle Storløkken, with whom the band worked on their wonderful collaborative epic The Death Defying Unicorn a few years back. Indeed, the project started life as another co-production with Storløkken, to be performed once only for the centennial celebrations of the Norwegian Technical Museum in November 2014. The music was too good to leave undeveloped and unrecorded but Storløkken had to pull out due to other commitments, leaving the band to their own cosmically fried devices.
The reprise of the short musical bridge that opens the album precedes the focal point of the record, Big Black Dog. Using Winston Churchill’s expression for the depression he suffered, the lyric pleas for help in keeping the blackness at bay, initially with judicious use of a quiet but very Byrdsian intro, and some elegiac Crosby Stills & Nash style harmonising. The black dog the song refers to could be depression, or evil in general, and the introduction of a tumultuous arpeggio riff that builds with the addition of orchestral keyboards creates just the right level of implied menace.
This is an epic in every sense of the word, and a heavy Zeppelinesque vibe, visible through a dense sonic fog pervades these grooves as the Big Black Dog is never far away. With nearly seven minutes left of the tune the riff ends and is replaced with a slowly rising tension, later in the company of howling synths baying at an unflinching Moon as the winds made moan. It’s dark in those woods, and sure enough the lumbering riff returns to carry us home with the hell hounds on our trail.
Motorpsycho have been going so long now that they need prove nothing to anyone, and in any event the fans will love Here Be Monsters. If this band is a new name to you, and you appreciate well crafted rock music with more than a hint of the Nordic Gothic and the psychedelic about it, then look no further!
01. Sleepwalking (0:57)
02. Lacuna/Sunrise (9:46)
03. Running With Scissors (5:39)
04. I.M.S, (7:04)
05. Spin, Spin, Spin (4:07)
06. Sleepwalking Again (0:57)
07. Big Black Dog (17:42)
Total Time – 46:15
Bent Sæther — Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Drums
Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan — Lead Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards, Mandolin, Violin, Bass
Kenneth Kapstad — Drums, Keyboards, Vocals
Thomas Henriksen – Keyboards
Record Label: Rune Grammofon
Catalogue#: RCD 2179
Date of Release: 12th February 2016