I reckon that SftDS readers must have heard about Motorpsycho by now. If you haven’t, same on you! The Norwegian prog-psych rockers have been around since 1989 and released more than 20 full albums, a dozen EP’s and a handful of live albums. Bent Sæther and his boys still go strong everywhere they go. The nice thing about Motorpsycho is that you never know what you’re going to get. Indie rock, alternative metal, jazz, sympho or noise, they’ve done it al.
Timothy’s Monster (1995), Let Them Eat Cake (2000), Barracuda (2001), the first two volumes of the Roadwork live series and especially In The Fishtank 10 (2003) with Jaga Jazzist Horns belong to my personal highlights. Hereafter I lost track of the band in the mid-2000s only to briefly pick them up again in 2012 with The Death Defying Unicorn on which Norwegian jazz legend Ståle Storløkken plays a major part. Two years Motorpsycho got my full attention again after they released the versatile double album The Tower. This album never got a proper review here (my bad) so let’s just say the recently released The Crucible is our second chance to say some words about this monumental band.
The Tower was a return to form for Motorpsycho. Under influence of a new drummer, Tomas Järmyr, the band once again explored their more diverse alternative rock roots without forgetting the more proggy experiment in the second part. Where The Tower ends The Crucible starts. With 3 lengthy tracks Sæther et al takes us deeper into the world of 70s progressive rock.
‘Psychotzar’ is the hinge between both albums. With a gong, strong riffs and various rootsy guitar solos this track extents the atmosphere from The Tower onto this new record. Yet, after about 3 minutes tension builds due to Järmyr’s heavier drumming and Sæther’s meandering vocals. This eventually leads to a compelling sounding track that at some points even is a bit bombastic like Led Zeppelin. As expected Motorpsycho wouldn’t be Motorpsycho if they played out this track in linear fashion. The sting of ‘Psychotzar’ is its tail. Here a throat gripping horror-like guitar riff serves as a dark ending.
‘Lux Aeterna’s’ is an ode to Bent Sæther mother who died 6 months ago. In contrast to ‘Psychotzar’ the lead in brings some air in the first minutes, although in a sorrowful manner. Some light guitar play, horns and keyboard intertwine with Sæther’s singing here, thus accentuating the sad beginning. Under pressure of further surging horns the song slowly progresses into a apotheosis that is suddenly interrupted by a piano which is quickly followed by an intoxicating whirlwind of jazzrock. After the restless midsection Sæther intervenes and eventually gives room to a cinematic saxophone solo that leads in a placid fade out.
With 20 minutes on the clock the title track makes up half of the album when it comes to playing time. The melodious beginning directly reminds of prog acts of old like King Crimson and Yes. Again Järmyr shows he’s an asset to the lineup by showcasing various impressive drum variations during the first few minutes. The band changes gear once more. This time by means of a light Pink Floyd-ish guitar interlude. Hereafter Sæther takes over with a few clear verses and as guitars riffs grow heavier the build up starts again. Now the band slaps us around with an unwavering industrial-strength like midsection full of noise. Just like on ‘Lux Aeterna’ the contrast is huge only this time it’s gloomier. Also the repetitiveness makes it the most powerful track on the album. After a few short tempo changes Motorpsycho combines the melodious opening with harsher structures of the track, this time leaving aside the noise we heard on the midsection. In the end I can only conclude that ‘The Crucible’ sets out like classic a progrock poem with a wonderful feeling for detail and structuring.
You could say The Crucible is a worthy ending for The Tower. Yet The Crucible also is strong enough the carry the weight of being a full album on its own. For this you have to understand it as progrock album without a predominant catchy side. Naturally Motorpsycho doesn’t deliver progrock just the fit the genre. The Crucible is Motorpsycho’s statement telling us that they will keep on pushing forward the standards they set for themselves thirty years ago by incorporating their own unique twists. Consequently Motorpsycho’s work still is and will be relevant factor to look out for.
Label: Stickman Records, 2019
- Psychotzar (8:43)
- Lux Aeterna (10:55)
- The Crucible (20:51)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 200219