Record Heaven 1997 / Sommor 2019
Stalwarts of Norwegian heavy stage get resurrected and bring evil from the past.
While it was in the late ’90s that Scandinavia became infamous for its metal scene, the genre’s local roots run much deeper, with acts like Norway’s LW emerging two decades earlier only to enter oblivion and leave without a trace. This ensemble persevered for years yet, despite their stage strength, recording contract proved to be elusive, so by 1976 the quintet fizzled out – and sprang back to life in 1996, obviously meaning to stay. Still, in order to start again, the veterans had to get old material out of their system, and before six albums of fresh produce appeared, out came “Underground And Beyond”: a collection of newly cut numbers from the days of yore – because, ostensibly, the band had nothing laid down back then. Fortunately, the tracks’ provenance would be hard to date, though.
Combining contemporary clarity and period arrangements, patina and effervescence, on such pieces as the funk-to-folk “Light My Cigarette” and theatrical “The Meaning Of Life” that are dipped in the past but sound fresh, the veterans unleash a nice assault on the listener’s ears, and if the overtly histrionic drama of “Asterix” doesn’t feel natural, the results are arresting. With sharp riffs offset by lava-hot solos to illustrate the “liquid darkness” line, “Teddy’s Sorrow” poses a playful threat, as rippling piano and fluttering flute pour sweetness into the mix of sympathy and misanthropy, and “In The Park” and “Tarabas” might be the closest the ensemble edge to a metal template. But Dag Stenseng’s distorted vocals and guitar lines seem serrated only until full-on psychedelia cuts in and rolls back, whereas the memorable licks of “Fandango” betray the band’s fascination with commercial success and also their faithfulness to Satanic tropes.
It’s thrilling to hear how Thore Engen’s six-string attack elevates “Scrubby Maid” above acidic fairy tale and Anders Sevaldson’s reeds take the lead on “Song For Rings” before Einar Bruu’s bass floats to the surface to overload “Out Of The Blue” and turn this short piece into a tremendous epic. The real epic, of course, is a four-part “The Green Pearl” whose impact is undermined when an omnipresent Grieg melody crawls out to dance – but the ensuing traditional tunes are difficult to resist in a heavy, if impressively textured, shroud. It was worth it to bring “Underground And Beyond” into here and now: LW deserve their place in history – and on today’s scene.