ViaMedia - Bridge Of Sighs

ViaMedia – Bridge Of Sighs

Whilst the Nordics have given us the lighter side of pop with Abba, A-ha and Roxette they also have a history of creating intense, moody and dark forms of rock and metal music, and over recent years have become a force in the progressive music world. ViaMedia describe themselves as a “Norwegian / British post progressive / art rock band” and for their debut album Bridge of Sighs Karl Yngvar Dale and Tore Dimmestol have teamed up with prog luminaries including Craig Blundell, John Mitchell and Jacob Holm-Lupo to create an album that is firmly anchored in the intense and moody camp.

The music is other-worldly, characterised by the use of distortions, effects and unnatural arrangements. The vocals are almost robotic and any melodic content in the nine tracks is constrained to a minimum. For some that may sound off-putting, but this album transcends the ‘normal’ in favour of a complex aural experience that requires the listener to immerse in these soundscapes that contain hidden depths and reward repeated listening.

There is an intriguing mix of acoustic and electronic instrumentation, and the main structure of the songs is built on the simplest of melodic phrases. The nature of the songwriting creates an overwhelming sense of doubt about the direction that the songs will take. The drama that this creates is exciting, but over the course of the album there is also some frustration that the tracks tend to be anti-climactic, not going far enough into the depths of darkness, nor providing enough of the contrasting lightness that could elevate the emotional and dramatic impact of the music.

Losing My Mind is a signature piece to start the album. The lyrics and vocal delivery echo the torment of life in this modern world and musically a myriad of distorted synths and guitars set the tones that will recur through the setlist. The instrumental breaks are fascinating but this is one of the longer tracks, at just over five minutes, and I certainly had a feeling (and this carried on across the album) that there were opportunities missed to expand on some of the musical ideas.

The first half of the album continues with three more similarly ‘intense and moody’ tracks. The same, but different, as the arrangements never allow the listener to settle. This isn’t music to tap your feet to, but there is a beauty that lies within. It really is your choice whether you want to invest the time and the will to discover it, but I am certainly gripped enough to want to keep going back.

It’s not until the fifth track Aphrodite that there is an emotional break. A tuneful Nordic re-telling from Greek mythology sets what’s essentially a love poem against an acoustic backdrop, including some unexpectedly camp vocal harmonies. It’s quite a turn of events and marks out the second half as a degree lighter in shade.

Once goes for a non-stop erotic cabaret vibe complete with late night sax solo. It fades out all too quickly though, and feels like the first half of a story, without a satisfactory ending. The track almost segues into Dream and this track provides more evidence that the alt-rock of the first half has been put aside for more ethereal soundscapes. Despite the sonic pleasure derived from this approach the feeling persists that the songs don’t quite deliver a conclusive narrative. This track meanders along without really reaching its destination, and the second half staggers towards a close with the soporific So Long.

Having taken us all the way from downbeat to deadbeat, the band then spring open the prog locker with the mini epic Dust. A super, and super-simple, melodic opening passage is progressed by way of a sparse instrumental break that precedes a short, spoken word epitaph:

“What do you believe in?
Who do you trust?
All we are left with are cockroaches and dust”

It’s not exactly a grand finale but whilst it fits in with the overall mood of the album it provides another, slightly more uplifting, aspect to the band’s musicality.

This album is chockfull of great, original ideas but it is also a challenging listen, in many ways. No one expects a debut album to be fully representative of what the band is now, or what it will become, but Bridge of Sighs does undoubtedly give ViaMedia tangible and interesting options for the direction of future releases. It will be intriguing to see what develops.

01. Losing My Mind (5:02)
02. Conspiracy Kid (5:09)
03. Saviour (5:07)
04. Never Believe (4:28)
05. Aphrodite (3:23)
06. Once (3:36)
07. Dream (3:22)
08. So Long (3:46)
09. Dust (4:05)

Total Time – 38:08

Karl Yngvar Dale – Vocals, Bass, Double Bass, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar
Tore Dimmestol – Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Keyboards, FX, Rhythm Programming
~ With:
Craig Blundell – Drums, Percussion
John Mitchell – Electric Guitar, Production
Jeff Oster – Flugelhorn
Lyndon Owen – Saxophones, Bagpipes, Tarogato
Jacob Lupo-Holm – Synth, Production
Emma King – Vocals

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 3rd April 2024

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