Motorpsycho are back with their fourth album in as many years, 2019’s The Crucible having been followed by the “Covid years” albums The All is One (2020) and Kingdom of Oblivion (2021), and here we are presented with Ancient Astronauts. It appears that the band’s creative juices continue to flow as they are still maintaining their high standard of music making.
When I saw this album up for review I was jumping up and down with my hand in the air, shouting “Me, me!”, completely shamelessly, such is my excitement for what this band create. There is some important background information for this album, so bear with me. Alongside the previous two albums, the band were involved in two other projects, one a loose film idea developed with De Utvalgte, a Norwegian theatre group. Not really liking the “live streaming concerts” which many bands did during lockdown periods, Motorpsycho got together with De Utvalgte to see if there was a way to portray their music in a visual way. This project is still underway and in development.
The second project saw Motorpsycho play live to a dance performance by Homan Sharifi and the Impure Dance Company, called Sacrificing. Again due to restrictions at the time, the audiences were small, resulting in only several hundred being lucky enough to see it. The dance was inspired by the idea of The Rite of Spring, a piece of music which had inspired Motorpsycho’s suite N.O.X. from The All is One. These two pieces worked well together, but more music was required so two further pieces were written. This is where things tie in with this release as those two songs, Mona Lisa/Azrael and Chariots of the Sun are included here.
Now this being Motorpsycho, they did not leave it there but added a further two tracks to give us a full album of new music. It was recorded in Amber Tone studio in Oslo, Norway during the summer of 2021. Reine Fiske, due to travel restrictions at the time, was not at the studio, so for the first time in many years the three core members of the band recorded as a trio.
This recording was mainly done as live takes, with only a few overdubs and vocals added later, so we are treated to the band playing live in the studio, and this is certainly reflected in the sound and feel of the songs in a most positive way.
The four songs contained here have an overall running time of forty-three minutes, with the longest clocking in at twenty-two minutes. This epic track, Chariots of the Sun could be seen as the centre piece of the album despite being the closer. It is a notable demonstration of the perfect pacing of a long-form song, the gentler opening developing gradually over the first five-minutes before the pace begins to increase. The transition between the song’s phases is smooth and precise, as a result of being recorded live in the studio. This live feel gives the song some fire, energy and endless power, along with focus and drive as it moves forward with purpose. I previously mentioned that this piece had been written for a dance company; having now heard the song I think the interpretation would be a wonder to behold. When you hear this song I guess you’re likely to think the same.
The previous statement could also be applied to the second piece written for this dance company, Mona Lisa/Azrael beginning with an almost folk-like atmospheric feel, at times reminiscent of early King Crimson (circa In the Court of the Crimson King). Building slowly, at around four-minutes there is a shift in pace with some urgent drum tapping before – Bang! – the band explode into full fury, slightly reigning in to settle into the set rhythm of the song.
The two remaining songs are as far away from fillers as possible; the quality and standard is pure Motorpsycho. Opener The Ladder is full-on as the trio power through its six-minutes, the live feel front and centre to give the impression that these guys are going for it, and enjoying every second of it too. Track two, The Flowers of Awareness, is an atmospheric piece but with an almost menacing feel at times, as if it is going to explode at any minute, but instead it links straight into the next track.
As I stated at the beginning, I was excited to hear this album, but I hope my review does not come over as too “fanboy”; I discovered this band only a few years ago and it still amazes me that these guys – who have been around for some thirty years – can sound so fresh as they power through this rich creative seam. They have delivered another album of interestingly constructed songs, and the fact that there were two originally written for a dance company means those lucky enough to see these performance would have another perspective on the album as a whole. Another lesson on how to lead from the front from a well established band. Go on, listen to it – I do not think that Ancient Astronauts will disappoint.
01. The Ladder (6:41)
02. The Flowers of Awareness (2:13)
03. Mona Lisa / Azrael (12:15)
04. Chariots of the Sun (22:22)
– To Phaeton on the Occasion of the Sunrise
– (Theme from an Imagined Movie)
Total Time – 43:32
Bent Sæther – Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Keyboards
Hans Magnus Ryan – Lead Guitar, Keyboards, Mandolin, Violin, Bass
Tomas Jämyr – Drums, Vocals
Record Label: Stickman Records
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 19th August 2022