Seven Impale hail from Bergen in Norway and were formed in 2010 by Stian Okland. After experimenting with their sound for a couple of years they joined Karisma Records and released the Beginning/Relieve EP in 2013, which was followed by their acclaimed debut album City of the Sun in 2014. It has been a long wait for this third album as their last release was Contrapasso in 2016 (which I reviewed for TPA), but it has certainly been well worth the wait. Seven Impale have returned with four epic tracks which continue their trademark blending of jazz with progressive rock along with heavier influences, with added doses of maturity and refining, whilst not losing any of the craziness in the process, but more of that later.
The band have previously cited their influences as early prog rock/fusion, experimental music and jazz, mixing modern metal sounds and a splash of jazz with some classic rock stylings of the greats, such as King Crimson, Van der Graaf Generator, and for me elements of Frank Zappa-style jazz influence and some touches of Gentle Giant. That said, this is only a personal reflection on what I hear, you may hear other influences, but hey, that’s what makes our music great, is it not?
So why the long wait between albums? Well, as with most things, life gets in the way sometimes, with members catching up on education, work and family. Indeed, Stian Økland has graduated from the Grieg Academy as an opera singer, also launching a career for himself. Also, keyboard player Håkon Vinje joined Enslaved and has recorded some albums with them. That said, it appears that this has helped and the lay off has provided Seven Impale with the time to create something special.
The four tracks were recorded in Solslotter, Bergen and produced, mixed and mastered by Iver Sandøy. The shortest of the pieces is a mere nine minutes long, with two further tracks clocking in at around ten minutes, before the album is closed out with a mini epic thirteen minute track that brings things to a very satisfying conclusion.
We kick off with Hunter, a slow and gentle piano opening falling to an insistent note before the band crashes in, settling into a slow, almost creepy horror vibe. The vocals have a feeling of melancholy to them, but delivered as powerful, clear and precise. At around four minutes, things go crazy, the song appearing to fall apart, but the control is obvious as we settle back into the main theme. The playing is exceptional throughout, with special mention for the saxophone of Benjamin Mekki Widerøe. The twists and turns within the song are complex, going through different styles and moods. At seven minutes things get heavier, and the ending appears to me to be have a Cardiacs influence. A definite statement of intent here then.
Hydra begins in a lively, way settling into a jazz influenced opening before the pace becomes more insistent a couple of minutes in with a rockier groove, going off on the odd tangent but always coming back to the main theme, the transitions negotiated in a most smooth and efficient manner. This is a track that demonstrates how far the band have come in maturing and refining their sound.
Ikaros was chosen as the first track to be released. It’s much heavier in style and is right in you face – or ears – from the off. Again there is a lot going on here, as each subsequent listen reveals.
Closer Sisyphus is epic for all the right reasons, a slow start gradually building with the occasional static-like burst of sound thrown in. Now while there is some great melody here, this is where the craziness comes to the fore with, at times, a cacophony of instruments crashing in before settling back into the song’s rhythm. This song is a full journey of what they do best, heavier moments, jazz-like work outs, melody, fine musicianship and excellent vocal delivery, all contained within the thirteen minutes. The pacing and the complexity is well displayed on this track with transitions being smooth and well executed, a fitting ending to a fine album.
As I commented in my review of Contrapasso, I like the music I listen to to challenge me, push boundaries and be a little different. Seven Impale have ticked all these boxes again for me and repeated plays has only reinforced this belief. A release of four quality tracks that demonstrate the progression and maturity of their sound. It is also a very interesting listen that benefits from repeated plays, and it is so difficult not to hit repeat when the album has finished. Oops, there it goes again… repeat… repeat…
01. Hunter (10:33)
02. Hydra (10:34)
03. Ikaros (9:26)
04. Sisyphus (13:22)
Total Time – 43:57
Fredrik Mekki Widerøe – Drums, Percussion, Banjo, Vocals
Benjamin Mekki Widerøe – Saxophone, Flute, Vocals
Erlend Votlvik Olsen – Guitar
Stian Økland – Vocals, Guitar
Tormond Fosso – Bass, Cello
Håkon Vinje – Keyboards, Vocals
Record Label: Karisma Records
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 26th May 2023