Apollon Prog 2020
Bringing their first decade of existence to a new beginning, Bergen band hit the brakes to take stock.
Why this collective aren’t on everybody’s art-rock radar, is anyone’s guess, but it wouldn’t be illogical to factor a sense of guilty pleasure into the effect they have on the audience. What may have passed for pastiche when the Norwegians started their journey, turns out arrestingly stylish on the group’s sixth effort that’s not as dystopian as its title must imply. On the contrary, there’s promise in its heavily pulsing veins.
For all the possible sci-fi coldness the ensemble’s cosmic progressiveness may exude, there’s an old-school warmth to their sound, the meandering organ riff heating up the atmosphere from the first bars of “Erebus” – briefly so – before deadpan vocals take over the sonic swirl and leave the listener in a psychedelic world of mythology and permafrost and pass the reserved belligerence, manifested as march, to a six-string roundabout only to catch the tune in a safety net. Not that the chorale-prefaced “In The Mirror” feels less perilous in its epic scope, but this piece’s velvet balladry will reveal a steel core once Sonja Otto’s voice and Sam Fossbakk’s guitars and ivories elevate the unhurried adventure to the leaden skies and lead beyond, where little melodies of “Under The Crystal Stars” perform a solemn dance to the alluring sounds of synthesizer waves and delicate strum.
And if “The Ghost Within” should show quasi-orchestral gloom in its Shakespeare-referencing flow that’s genuinely spectral despite the Bach-like tangibility, and “Beneath The Silence” hides a folksy pastorale and magnificent waltz in its hypnotic harmonies, the album’s titular track rides across an insistent groove in a glorious space-rock manner, menacing yet mesmeric, with Stein Høgseth’s mighty bass bearing the rhythmic heft and Charlie Wise’s drums propel the momentum forward. That’s when an operatic mantra and hazy buzz of “Objet Petit A” begin to crawl under one’s skin until improv-shaped nebulas enter the frame, and the deceptively simple drift of “Earth” brings the trip to a close.
It’s a voyage worth experiencing again and again; it’s that mind-bending.