(All Album Reviews by Ursula)
Thule, a 3 piece band from Norway's North Cape covering vocals, percussion, guitar, keyboards, bass, reinforced by female guest vocals and saxophone, have with graks released their 6th album. It is difficult to capture graks verbally as it includes such a wide range of musical ingredients. The recipe contains various kinds of rock, metal, folk, space, and many other music styles find their echoes between noises, sounds, melodic and dissonant arrangements.
The vocals deserve particular mentioning as the outstanding bass voice contributes largely to the atmosphere and is present on the entire album. The vocal parts are remarkable in that they resemble the diversity in musical styles mentioned above. It is partly reminiscent of the medieval influenced style in the vein of In Extremo, an impression which is also enhanced by the use of the Norwegian language, and which is taking turns with almost whispered and groaned parts, sprechgesang as well as harmonic vocals in the ilk of folk rock. This picture is completed by the frequent use of two or three part harmonies.
Although vocals play a major role on graks the songs are not dominated by a verse / chorus structure but develop in unexpected ways. So for example changes in time signature coincide with changes in the choice of the lead instruments leaving the listener with a feeling of just having run over the edge of an aural cliff, hanging in mid air and waiting for the plunge which never comes. Just in time the tight, disciplined musical interplay develops into another stunning tune to lead the listener to another level, maybe still hanging upside down but already enchanted by the new experience.
Unusually arranged vocal parts, harmonies and dissonance, quietness (almost suggesting stillness) and loudness (almost deafening), plus the excellent musicianship take the listener to a journey where more familiar sounds might serve as anchors helping the first time listener through the sometimes challenging songs. Subsequent listening reveals that - although the ingredients seem to suggest something of a cacophony - that a carefully estimated dosage creates songs that vary, sometimes within them, from modern space sounds á la Ozric Tentacle over metal with a Rush tendency down to archaic sounding folk rock bringing Hubert von Goisern to mind. The overall impression is dark music riddled with bright, energetic spots, playfulness and humour. Take “Eiendomelig”, this song does sound exactly like eiendomelig ( = peculiar). I am also not sure what the song “Feskehau” (= fish heads) is about but it sounds great. And if one knows that “Daga” means 'day' then it seems apparent also to non Norwegians that the music tells a story.
To begin with the effects of this album are just as confusing as this description sounds, to which the production of the album also contributes. There are very quiet parts contrasted by loud parts (therefore not recommended for car listenings) and the individual songs are not separated by silent gaps so that, due to the unusual song structures, it is sometimes impossible to tell when one song ends and the next begins.
To stay within the cooking metaphor, if you enjoy occasionally a new dish then this is one highly recommended.
To my knowledge there is so far only one source for this delicious feast of music: http://www.thulerecords.no, but isn't it always this way with delicacies?