There are times when an album drops into your review list and on first listen it makes you want to start writing straight away, this is one of those albums. Motorpsycho have done it again for me with this release. The Crucible was my album of the year in 2019, and I believe they may have done it again this year.
The All is One is the band’s third album, following 2017’s The Tower and The Crucible, forming the loosely-connected and informally titled ‘Gullvåg Trilogy’, but that said, this album stands on its own merit with the listener not needing to have heard the others, although I do recommend it. The album was recorded between September and November 2019 in two sessions; the first at Black Box Studio France with Reine Fiske and the second at OceanSound Studio Norway with Lars Horntveth and Ola Kvernberg, this second session giving birth to the forty-two minute epic N.O.X.. The band teased that this five-part piece was written for a ballet and it forms the centre piece of this album. Produced by Bent Sæther, mixed by Andrew Scheps and mastered by Helge Sten with the vinyl master cut by Chris bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering.
The album clocks in at an hour and twenty-four minutes long, needing the listener to invest time, but it is so worth it. It’s constructed in such a way that it draws you towards the centre piece track N.O.X., starting with four tracks which set the template, changing, evolving and developing in an interesting way, continued throughout the forty-two minute piece and the closing four tracks. The band have achieved an album that is accessible but also challenging at times, brimming with ideas, it has hidden depths which are revealed on repeated plays.
The title track opens the album with what appears to be an almost straight ahead rock feel, but there is much more to this song on repeated plays, with lyrics dealing, it appears, with the changes that digitalisation, social media, fake news, etc., has had on the state of the world, this is a great start. Second track The Same Old Rock (one must imagine Sisyphus happy) was the lead track released from the album, with a gentle start, slowly developing, it then kicks up a gear or two in a wonderfully paced song which demonstrates what Motorpsycho do so well. They follow this opening pair up with two more interesting tracks before moving effortlessly into the centrepiece track, N.O.X.
Here we move into what may be, for some, more challenging territory, but it is so worth it as the interest level goes up a notch again. The opening piece of N.O.X., subtitled Circles Around the Sun, part 1, adds violin which gives another dimension to the sound. Midway through, the bass becomes more prominent, sounding like it’s just holding together as the violin takes on a more frenzied solo. Things move seamlessly into the second piece, Ouroboros (Strange Loop). It’s an instrumental, full of ideas, which turns up the momentum again, moving into Ascension, which slows things down again as we move towards Night of Pan. This fifteen minute section is one of my favourites. It develops an almost palpable tension, almost like winding a rubber band and waiting for it to suddenly snap, but the whole track remains tight and controlled, the expected release coming as we segue into the final part, Circles Around the Sun, part 2. Here things take off with the band firing on all cylinders towards the conclusion. An amazing collection of five pieces go into making this track, leaving you wanting to hit replay. But they are not finished yet, and we get a further four high standard and varied songs.
A Little Light follows, a delicate piece that allows you to catch your breath after the epic N.O.X., the track ending with some atmospheric keyboards which segue into the next track. Dreams of Fancy is another perfectly paced track over nine minutes, while The Dowser is another short and quiet piece leading to the final track, Like Chrome.
Motorpsycho are creative and forward-thinking, combining a powerful but precise presentation to make them a band that continually develops their ideas into the great sounds contained here. This is an album well worth hearing. For me, while listening to the download, I was so encouraged by what I heard that I had to purchase the vinyl version, which is excellently mastered and cut and my preferred listening choice.
01. The All is One (8:50)
02. The Same Old Rock (one must imagine Sisyphus happy) (5:17)
03. The Magpie (5:35)
04. Delusion (The Reign of Humbug) (2:44)
05. N.O.X. I – Circles Around the Sun, Pt.1 (9:10)
06. N.O.X. II – Ouroboros (Strange Loop) (8:22)
07. N.O.X. III – Ascension (3:37)
08. N.O.X. IV – Night of Pan (15:31)
09. N.O.X. V – Circles Around the Sun, Pt.2 (5:34)
10. A Little Light (2:18)
11. Dreams of Fancy (9:36)
12. The Dowser (2:45)
13. Like Chrome (5:03)
Total Time – 84:49
Bent Sæther – Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Keyboards, Drums
Hans Magnus Ryan – Lead Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards, Mandolin, Violin, Bass
Tomas Järmyr – Drums, Vocals
Reine Fiske – Guitar
Lars Horntveth – Saxophones, Clarinet
Ola Kvernberg – Violin
Record Label: Rune Grammofon
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 28th August 2020