Although every new Motorpsycho release is met with a warm welcome here at Sounds From the Darkside, it doesn’t mean that were without critical remarks about the content. On the other hand you probably know by now that we are positively biased about this Trondheim trio so let’s see how critical we can really get about Kingdom of Oblivion. Let’s go!
It’s clear that Motorpsycho is a very very productive band and there is nothing wrong with that. In august 2020 the band surprisingly wrapped up the so-called Gullvåg trilogy with The All Is One. While the 40 minute N.O.X. suite still is among the band’s best recent work, the rest of the album was filled with various songs that were separately recorded in France. We struggled to pick up a holistic album vibe on The All Is One and with Kingdom of Oblivion in our hands today we have to conclude that the gap between the suite and the rest is unbridgeable. Maybe if there was more time between both releases we could figure out The All Is One better but we also have to respect that there’s money to be made in these rough times.
Another thing that worried us beforehand was that the bulk of songs on Kingdom of Oblivion comes from the same recording sessions in France. Hence our fear that this new quick release is filled with a set leftovers of lesser quality? On the other hand, we’re talking Motorpsycho here and the past decades they never let us down. Even the true leftover album The Light Fantastic (2019) is a fun spin. Kingdom of Oblivion was intended to be a return to the band’s hard rock roots with all the belonging big riffs. However, the masters from France sessions were expanded and tweaked in Norway with some lighter touches yet again we don’t really know what to expect. That fact alone got us comfortably hyped again. Now, let’s talk content then in a reverse The Good, The Bad and Ugly manner so we end on a high note.
The Ugly – Of course nothing is never really ugly in the Motorpsycho universe. Still, if you have seen them live before you know the band likes to play at maximum volume regardless of whether a venue has got the right acoustics. In many cases, especially smaller venues, the band is too loud for details to be heard. As it is part of the experience for most fans this poses no problems yet, the loudness has been part of the production for a few years now. It’s hard to hear details or separation between instruments on the heavier songs like Dreamkiller or The Transmutation of Cosmotocpus Lurker. At times you have to focus too much on for example a Hans Magnus solo. We would file the production of some heavy songs under bad but since it’s not the first time for studio releases it’s time to say this aspect is ugly.
The Bad – Obviously it’s clear that Bent Saether and co. master their craft. Especially during the first half of the album, the band skillfully evades the fact that we’re dealing with leftover material. The songs are listed in such a manner that it feels like the band takes us on a trip though the rock scene of the 70s. If you look it like that there is no need to know why The Waning pt. 1 & 2 and for example The United Debased differ. Of couscous this is a fallacy which becomes very clear during the second half of the album. The different hard rock styles are filled up here by rehearsal-like tracks Atet, After The Fair and Cormorant. Although we have to admit we missed connections like these on The All Is One it’s also obviously heard that the aforementioned fillers weren’t recorded in the same timeframe. Another, more serious bad is the lack of innovation. Keep in mind that Moterpsycho is rightfully seen as a band who stand on the progressive side of things (e.g. Roadwork vol. 2 or their work with composer Ståle Storløkken). On Kingdom of Oblivion the band plays it on the safe side. With ease they manage to switch between hard rock, prog and folkish tunes but in the end there are barely any songs that bring a new sound.
The Good – Kingdom of Oblivion is full of thriving riffs that are niceley mixed out with a keyboard which causes catchy melodies to unfold. The United Debased for example combines a pumping rhythm and fierce guitar play that eventually lead to a great Deep Purple-like apotheosis. Although production falls a bit short on Dreamkiller, the interchange of heaviness and harmony works out well within the song. The same can be said about the strong The Transmutation of Cosmotocpus Lurker which is an almost direct reference to Little Lucid Moments (2008). At Empire’s End brings more texture to the table and for us is the best song on the album. Here the band positions themselves between prog, psych, folk and alt rock and shows off their versatility. The acoustic Lady May is our honorable mention. This moody ballad thrives on a dark guitar and base that connect wonderfully. Lady May is the only quieter song that feels like an addition because the best parts are the heavier songs that make Kingdom of Oblivion a rewarding listen.
Especially the second half of Kingdom of Oblivion is a conspicuously pieced together work that ultimately didn’t bother us that much. So after a few spins we have to conclude that the good outweighs the bad and ugly. Motorpsycho once more delivers a solid work that exceeds The All Is One as a whole and comes in as the second best album since drummer Tomas Järmir joined the band on The Tower (2017). Hopefully though the band will shift from the recognizable to the experimental on future work. It would be nice that all this first-class eclecticism would lead to something innovative for a change. Why not hook up with Deathprod, Jaga Jazzist or other old friends for some extra creative impulses. On the other hand, if a headstrong band like this decides to bring out a more consistent hard rock album next year we would be happy as well. So keep them coming boys!
Label: Rune/Stickman, 2021
- The Waning (Pt. 1&2) (7:28)
- Kingdom of Oblivion (6:56)
- Lady May (3:21)
- The United Debased (9:03)
- The Watcher (5:03)
- Dreamkiller (5:15)
- Atet (2:16)
- At Empire’s End (8:35)
- The Hunt (5:45)
- After the Fair (1:57)
- The Transmutation of Cosmoctopus Lurker (10:55)
- Cormorant (3:38)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 170521