Día de Muertos, Scandinavian way: bliss of immortality given weight and edge.
Of different hue to their Welsh namesakes, these Norwegians have been mining the monochrome sadness for two decades now, with a U-turn to sweet paganism of the band’s native peninsula. “Songs For The Dead” signals their re-embracement of international values and English lyrics, a decision and circumstance that ultimately led to the album’s main theme: the ensemble had settled in their producer, the MINISTRY man Al Jourgensen’s studio the day guitarist Mike Scaccia took off, to die a few days later. Such a nightmare before Christmas scenario colored the results darkly, if warm, Anders Odden’s riffs baring his pop sensibility and Vilde Lockert’s voice locating lost souls and bringing the spirits home to roost and rest.
That’s how it is in the calendar-flipping, folk-kissed “All Year Long” whence whispers echo down the chthonic sway, although the most blood-curling moment arrives with “Ghost” – a death disco piece written and delivered by Vilde and Anders’ young daughter – and its innocent sacrificial resolve. Not for nothing the tightly layered instrumentation creates a gothic sort of grandeur in “Die Young” while rejecting the idea of earthly eternity. So if one can detect the apparitions of “Paint It Black” and “Children Of The Grave” in some murky corners, “Mirror” hiding a few familiar faces, “The Day I Die” reveals an operatic abandon in its lulling depth to bid farewell to this world.
There’s an underworld fair concept lurking in the shadows of opener “Dance Macabre,” yet the sludgy drone and rarefied piano drops behind “Im Paradisum” banish mirth in favor of bleak shivers before offering an uplift in its flaming heart. It’s scary in there, but it’s the route everybody must be ready for – hoping someone will write a song for you when you depart.