The 3rd and the Mortal

(Head Not Found - 1994)
A four song EP, 20 minutes long. I have heard this described as doom metal and yes, I have to admit that two of the songs are loaded with doom elements, but the fact is that this band, even on this first release, are obviously a creative and unique musical force to be reckoned with. The first obvious factor that radically changes the music is Kari Rueslåtten, who angelically and grippingly uses her superbly fine-tuned voice like a honed instrument to carry the soul away. This music is so delicate at times, it abducts your full attention and makes you fear any movement on your part. The music itself is highly original and varied and this is why I find it impossible to pigeonhole them or compare them to anyone else. It is dreamy and sorrowful though, and is full of beauty and harmonies. The second track stands out, containing only an acoustic guitar played at times like a harp, and Kari's spellbinding vocals, a beautiful voice from ancient times. This one may be too subtle for many of the typical metal fans, but I must recommend this most emphatically.
Tears Laid in Earth
(Voices of Wonder - 1994)
As with the previous album, the first song is sung by Kari in exquisite Norwegian but the majority are in carefully pronounced English. This time however, she sings a capella and this only serves to emphasize her perfect voice which has even improved. Enter the rest of the tracks, and the music is, again, of varied and original arrangements flowing with both doom metal and atmospheric rock elements. It is slightly more polished than before though. Both distorted and clean electric guitars are used, and the percussion is always tastefully appropriate and unobtrusive. The former half of the album contains more easygoing and standard harmonies, but rapidly starts experimenting with more artistic sounds in the latter half, the last two delving into dissonance. Just about all of the tracks stand out, but some more than others. Cases in point: 'Lengsel' - a duet with Kari and bass guitar; 'Song' - atmospheric keyboards and then some of the most spellbinding and delicate vocals ever sung by Kari; 'Oceana' - the last 19 minute dreamy epic with guitars singing whale songs, and many other ingenious experimentations. Highly recommended for doom metal fans and a must buy for the artistically inclined.
(Voices of Wonder - 1995)
Enter Ann-Mari Edvardsen, the new vocalist. With her comes a stronger voice that comes more from the gut, lacking the delicate subtleties her predecessor had. That is not to say that she is a bad vocalist, on the contrary. Her range, power and abilities are astounding and she is always perfectly in tune at any note. She also manages to play some tricks with her vocal cords and sounds like a musical instrument at times. Gone is the amazing delicacy though, this is just a good, solid and highly professional voice. As for the music, well, it has lost some its subtleties as well but they experiment further again. The first track of this four song EP is 11 minutes long that starts off with typical 'Mortal' harmonies and sadness and some heavy riffing, then progresses into some eerie atmospheric dissonant sounds and radical vocals. The next track stays more within a standard framework of sad sounds with doom metal. The third song consists of unaccompanied, slow, brooding and atmospheric avant-garde jazz vocals with atmospheric sounds and musical snippets in the background. It's a showcase for Edvardsen's amazing vocals and very hypnotic. The fourth song is a more standard instrumental with keyboards. So as usual, the tracks all vary and this one is hard to recommend to a general audience. It is also less captivating than the previous releases, but I must say I am enraptured by anything this amazing band plays and this is a proud addition to my collection.
Painting on Glass
(Voices of Wonder - 1996)
This full length release moves away from doom metal almost completely, barring a few moments and songs. The experimental side of 3rd and the Mortal takes center stage here, resulting in a hybrid of ambient-jazz-opera-art-electronica-doom-metal. As with all their albums, the review should really be on a track by track basis due to the variety but instead I shall summarize. The music in general is more atmospheric, with both heavier musical tracks and many soft mood-setting ambient songs. The uniqueness and creativity are definitely still here. This one doesn't have the weird and dissonant elements as much as in the last two albums (I expected them to progress farther into those sounds), but it is still very different. Their inventive repertoire seems to know no bounds. Ann-Mari changes her voice almost as often as the music, from plain and strong, to operatic and to other ethnic styles as well, and this time blending in better with the music. One standout is 'Persistent and Fleeting' with its very powerful and fascinating ethnic vocals bringing to mind Dream Can Dance. I think the main problem with this release though, is that the tone is too varied for an ambient album, and, on the other hand, seems to ramble and get lost in ambient soundscapes too much for a rock album. After the first four tracks, the majority of the album is gothic ambient, electronic and ethnic sounds in the vein of Dead Can Dance only more experimental. However, although I much prefer their first two albums, this one grows on you somewhat and does interesting things. Many of the songs are actually paintings, with sounds instead of colors, and chords replacing brush strokes. An artistic and talented release that will not appeal to most people.
In This Room
(Voices of Wonder - 1997)
Turn on the psychedelic lights and wear your evening clouds. In case of sudden loss of brain pressure, grab the flotation devices under your seat and try to stay afloat. OK, so maybe I shouldn't write this review while listening to this overdose of avant-garde music, but maybe it will help you get a feeling for how totally 'out there' some of this stuff is. We are in pure experimental, avant-garde, ambient and jazz territory here. Except this time it's brilliant, fascinating, a fun experience, and way ahead of its time, and it doesn't get lost in ambient sounds as with the previous release. This is a band throwing all caution to the wind, experimenting with their skilled musicianship, doing whatever seems right for the mood they are going for, improvising, and publishing the results. As before, Edvardsen changes her voice to suit the song and demonstrates an incredibly varied range. In some ways it's avant-garde jazz, except it's gothic, dark and ambient music. Yet again, the songs are all very different, but the psychedelic effect remains throughout the album, making this, ironically, into their most consistent release. This has nothing to do with doom metal of course, or any other metal for that matter. Standouts: 'So Pure' - a jazz song with 60's keyboards and hypnotic cymbals, 'Sophisticated Vampires' - possibly the most dissonant song ever made that actually makes sense in an extremely twisted way (where is she??), and 'Myriad of the Peep Holes' - a haunting gothic beauty. This is a much more gripping and fascinating album than the previous and a very underrated release. I can't possibly recommend this to anyone even though I absolutely love it, so pick this one up at your own risk.
(Voices of Wonder - 2002)
Oh no, what happened? Experimentation is one thing, but this is just adding creative touches to an existing and typically dull and soulless genre. It is beneath this great band. The genre in question is electronica, dark-wave, trip-hop and some industrial sounds. Once again, there is a new singer(s). Whereas Kari Rueslåtten was timeless and sorrowful, and Edvardsen was both operatic and jazzy, Kirsti Huke in this album sounds like something in between a bar-club singer and Bjork. She isn't bad, except she only makes an appearance on four tracks. The rest contain male vocals, one hip-hop style, and the others sound like someone trying to emulate David Bowie (poorly). The music starts promisingly in the first two tracks, feeling like typically interesting 3rd and the Mortal dark experimental material with an extra layer of subtle electronica. But then the rest of the album dives head first into Portishead electronica, some Bjork electronica, electronic-era Bowie, trip-hop, and so on, always with the soulless rhythm and repetitive electronic sounds going on and on for far too long. I can get into dark ambient music such as Scorn sometimes, but this was mostly boring: a bunch of creativity thrown down the soulless hole of electronica, attempting to create ambient atmosphere with beats instead of music. A very disappointing final release from this great band.

The Last Exit © 1996-

Reviews Main Page