Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Monday 5 June 2023

Reviews: Einar Solberg, The Great Gray Funk, Akilla, Nattehimmel (Reviews By Matt Bladen, James Jackson, Zak Skane & GC)

Einar Solberg - 16 (InsideOut Records) [Matt Bladen]

Einar Solberg will be known to you if you have only a passing interest in progressive music, he is the frontman of Leprous and for a long time was keyboardist/clean vocalist for Ihsahn. In the same vein he is also has a creative thirst that is not satiated by his ‘main’ band, there are genres, styles, rhythms, ideas swirling around his head that even the art-progsphere can’t accommodate so it is now that he has chosen to release a solo record. 

A more introspective, intimate album than much of Leprous’ more grandiose efforts, Solberg has cultivated a collaborative environment for his debut solo album, a 50/50 split between Solberg and the composer who joins him on each song, this means that while there are call-backs and links to world many will know him from, it utilises styles Solberg may not be associated with. The title 16 refers to the fact that Solberg has been with Leprous since he was 16 years old and while they are now seen as one of the leaders of their style, this solo album is a new direction a different branch of the same tree. 

This period between 16 and 19 years old was also the most tumultuous so 16 is something of a concept release, retrospectively dealing with these events in attempt to find solace and redemption, making sense of that period and how it was integral to the success he now has as a composer and musician. Einar didn’t want this to be a small album sonically, using various studios around the world (usually those of the collaborators) while also bringing in the Prague Philharmonic Choir on Splitting The Soul and The Glass Is Empty, the former co-written/performed with Ihsahn and features lots of brass, the latter an 11 minute prog epic performed with Tóti Guðnason of Agent Fresco augmented by a church organ. 

While certain songs are what you’d expect; such as the avantgarde Where All The Twigs Broke where Einar and Starofash do what they do best on this sample infused oddness. Things get wilder, with more missions into the wider musical universe, the post gaze of the title track which features (and was written by) experimental cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, while the songs with Ben Levin (Bent Knee) becoming infused with repeating electronic drums on Remember Me, the synthwave A Beautiful Life while Home is parping electrofunk having the inspiration of the hip hop/rap scene. 

A varied and expansive journey, 16 gives more insight, if any were needed into the inner mind of Einar Solberg, vowing to have both Leprous and his solo project side by side, we could be in for more excellent music in the near future. 8/10

The Great Gray Funk - The Great Gray Funk (StoneFree Records) [James Jackson]

I’m going to start this with a quote taken directly from the band’s website:

“Being a vernacular term for long and foggy winters, it should come as no surprise that the band behind, The Great Gray Funk seeks to capture that certain eeriness and darkness with its music.”

And to some degree it’s true, it’s not Doom, but Doom influenced, or at the very least Goth Rock.
There’s certainly a darkness to it, though most of that is lyrically, for it’s a bleak journey. Cortisol opens the album with a Punk Rock feel to it, it’s got traits of bands like L7 to it, that scuzzy sound before giving way to a stripped down hypnotic sway found in Vacuum Thoughts and although Faceless maybe the fourth track in the album, it’s a prime example of the feel of the album, of the blend of genres that have made their way into the sound of The Great Gray Funk, it is the band’s ode to depression and loneliness; self doubt personified in music. 

Wintereuphoria is another solemn affair before the Punky Rock of The Narrator livens things up, Light And Grace has an interestingly funk filled intro before delving into a more melancholy verse, again the lyrics are a match to the darker theme running through this album; there are rhythm sections, a variety of melodies that are sometimes more uplifting, moving the concurrent theme of solitude and depression along at a swifter pace before taking a step back to something more befitting the lyrical tone. This is quite an interesting album, a blend of styles surrounding the foundation of melodic despair. 7/10

Akilla - The Gods Have Spoken (Self Released) [Zak Skane]

As soon as the cinematic drop commences on the opening track Wind Of Winter we are greeted with grinding guitar tones and waves of symphonic layers and tremolo picked guitars whilst the singer Ross Wilson provides us with his best chilling Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth battle growls. 

Following their chilling opener we get the single of the album Serpent And The Son which provides sharp guitar riffs bouncy beats before it gets into technical territory with it’s sharp placed jolty rhythms and intricate drum grooves and anthemic Melodic Death Metal choruses. Queen Of Heaven will make you charge into battle whilst making you sway to the drums of chaos from it’s transitions 4/4 into 6/8 rhythms. Song Of The Seafarers mid tempo pulses of chugging guitar chords and up lifting guitar leads matched with symphonic textures and clean passages to help you sail from one side of the earth to the other. 

Other highlights of this would be the Melodic Death Metal laced Djenty rhythms of Cosmia and the triumphant ending of Echo with it ambient clean passages, epic lead playing and moving string sections which would lay down our swords. From the opening track Winds Of Winter to the epic finally of Echo the band have shown true fighting spirit potential, the only thing that douses their flame is the DIY production. 6/10

Nattehimmel - Mourningstar (Hammerheart Records) [GC]

I will be the first to admit I am not an expert on Black Metal in any way, shape of form, don’t get me wrong I enjoy some of it but also dodge a whole lot of it because you never know who is sketchy and who isn’t nowadays? Having said that today I review a new release from Hammerheart Records in the shape of Mourningstar the new Nattenhimmel album, I really don’t know what to expect from this!

After skipping past the completely pointless intro, first track Astrologer starts off promisingly enough with the echoey and grimy guitars that sound like they were recorded in a cupboard and the drums are suitably dense and pummelling BUT, it’s the vocals that I can’t get my head around? Clean vocals in black metal just doesn’t seems to sit right with me at all and when the harsh vocals come in it all fits much better this may take some getting used to, but it doesn’t totally ruin the song which is full of atmosphere and a foreboding dread all the way through.

Each Man A Constellation is once again seeping with atmospherics and grandeur throughout and here the parts that are actually black metal are great and the guitars are razor tight and sound great but parts of this song sound like it was recorded as a dare between mates to see how ridiculous it could be? I may be missing something but it all just sounds so ridiculous to me!? Armies Of Tiamat is played at an almost doom pace its slow and thoughtful with just a little tinge of melodic death metal thrown in for good measure and here the clean vocals make sense and don’t clash or sound out of place when they mix with the harsh and bleak sections and overall really help the whole structure to flow nicely but they do once again manage to almost ruin the whole song by throwing in a load of whoa oh oh’s and I just want to cut my ears off, I mean there is no place for that in black metal surely? 

Slay The Shepard then sounds like a power metal track mixed in with more of the melodic death metal and when it kicks into the death style it is much better than the power style, however it all just seems a bit cheesy to me now? I can appreciate the musicianship on this record and applaud the urge to be different but it all just seems very comical in places! The Northern Kings creeps into life with a moody key filled intro and then is again slowed down to a very doom like pace with the main riff repeating and swirling in and out they even throw in some little woodwind parts here and there which is interesting and makes it stand out that bit more and when the customary black metal part arrives its absolutely class with a massive riff and some of the best vocals of the whole album so far, I just wish it ALL sounded like this but then they then delve directly back into the doomy vein and it closes out the song wonderfully! 

Realm Of Hades doesn’t really do very much for me, it is a heavily clean lead song and the music itself again does nothing, they attempt to ramp up the pomp and ceremony again, but I feel like they mis judged it and it all just sound flat and uninspiring. Onto the closing stages of this confusing album now and The Immortals is a full-on rip-roaring black metal track but is once again held back by having clean vocals on it, this should have been harsh and unrelenting savagery but is ruined by poor choices which is a real shame as when it started I though, oh hello, FINALLY! But no! a real shame. I hate the final song on this album The Nightsky Beckons because its all just got too much to deal with now, I just can’t keep on trying to work out what is going on and why they sound like they do anymore, and I am glad it’s all over.

Unfortunately, this was not for me at all. I get we all like different things and unfortunately, I didn’t like this very much, there were some really good bits, but they were completely outnumbered by absolutely bewildering bits that made no sense to me and that is what I will take away from this just total complete confusion and frustration. 5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment