The 3rd and the Mortal
Sorrow(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 - I may reveal that much. The second track stands out, containing only an acoustic guitar played at times like a harp, and Kari's spellbinding vocals - a medieval-sounding charmer. 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 cappella 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.
Nightswan(Voices of Wonder - 1995)
Enter Ann-Mari Edvardsen, the new vocalist. With her comes a stronger voice that comes more from the stomach, lacking the tiny subtleties her predecessor had. That is not to say that she is a bad vocalist, on the contrary. Her range is 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 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 and moody jazz vocals with atmospheric sounds and musical glimpses in the background. 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 marks a big shift away from doom metal to...well I really don't know to what. 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 sounds. But the uniqueness and creativity are definitely still here. This one doesn't have the weird and dissonant elements as much (I expected them to progress farther into those sounds actually), 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 more with the music. One standout is 'Persistent and Fleeting' with its very powerful and fascinating ethnic vocals. I think the main problem with this release though, is that it is too varied for an atmospheric and moody album and seems to ramble too much. However, although I much prefer their first two albums, this one grows on you and does many 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 floatation devices under your seat and try to remain above the waves of reality. OK, so maybe I shouldn't write this review while listening to this overdose of artistic music, but maybe it will help you get a feel for how totally 'out there' some of this stuff is. Yet again, the songs are all very different, but the psychedelic/floating 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. Some dabbling into jazz, lots of strange moods, great mixing work in the studio and a staggering amount of creative talent has gone into this album. As usual, they use guitars, drums, keyboards, bass, vocals and effects all in an assortment of ways to suit the music. And the music is what you notice most, not the individual instruments. 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 beauty. This is a much more gripping and fascinating album than the previous in my opinion 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.