In 2020 we bemoaned the fact that there weren’t enough prog outfits to come forward. That good players in this embattled genre had become a dying breed with folks like Steven Wilson opting for the pop highway.1)
Only to find that Haken made it to the top spot of our annual top 10 contest2). In other words, suddenly we had a choice where there was none at first. And a pretty difficult one at that, with Scardust following more or less directly on their heels.
Now, it looks like the movement continues with the somewhat unexpected arrival of Need‘s new and quite eclectic album Norchestrion: a song for the end. A name as complicated as their style is complex.
Fractals shine bright, once that mixture of Technical Metal and Progressive Metal really takes off. And right from the start, a pretty hefty complexity installs itself. And that is good, yet also bad at the same time.
Geeks like me have no issue diving into this wild and slightly nerdy soundscape Need chose to put on display here. Yet, exactly that facet of the record will limit the size of the audience that this type of album can attract. It is just too intense and – indeed – sometimes overwhelmingly intricate.
That said, the songwriting chops of this gang of brutes really get pretty damn near the Haken level. With some sort of modernized Nevermore3) mixed into their tune. And in truth, this all really felt like the ghost of Warrel Dane was rattling the props in the background somewhere.
At first, I was a tad wary of the massive 66-minute airtime Norchestrion slammed onto our turntable. But – boy – this band knows how to keep our waning attention spans on high alert. Even the 19-minute monster Ananke towards the end never wears out its welcome. Ever.
Yet, the first two tracks – complex as they might be – did not really get our earphones into overheat mode. Somewhat of a light version of the last Caligula’s Horse, both failed to really get our juices going. But at the same time, we were relieved that Norchestrion did not descend into a djent-fest that would test our patience.
Now, this record is a strange animal. Things did not quite convince us at takeoff, true. Yet, the power starts to get to 20K megawatts once Nemmortal hits the tracklist. It’s got a slight tribal taste to it that hides in that synth-laden pop undercurrent. One that sounds like some sort of a progressive, alternative version of what Amaranthe would do, should they ever decide to drop the pop and steer into prog waters.
And that’s one of the strengths of Norchestrion. You get these subtleties that somehow flow into the tune. A feeling of crossover, yet hidden in a unique metal sound. A certain strain of interdimensional weirdness that somehow flows into their tune that will keep you in its grip.
Speaking about which. The feeling of multidimensional strangeness intensifies, once V.a.d.i.s. hits yer boomboxes. An artfully arranged type of Hollywood-grade dialogue of two – entities. Disembodied voices that try to figure out if the end already occurred4). One in American and the other in a somewhat sanitized UK English. And how deliciously provocative is that. But that Need underlayed this slightly disturbing speech with that type of sci-fi synth madness really takes the cake.
Now, V.a.d.i.s. flows effortlessly into Norchestrion – the title track. And true to its name, this piece easily usurps the prize, the uncontested numba one spot of this record. And it has everything. From Leprous-ish intricate stellar riffs to solos, and – even – a few rare growls.
The aforementioned very lengthy Ananke will introduce subtle atmospherics to this tasty stew of prog and tech. The track – indeed – demonstrates yet again what this band can do. You see, if someone would ask me what prog is, I would pull up that song. That is the band pulling out the stops before the record comes to an end.
Finally, Need created a wickedly tasty piece of Progressive Metal that I did not quite expect so early in the year. A perfectly produced piece that won’t lose any element in its wake. Norchestrion: a song for the end eerily sounds like one of those audio motion pictures. Some sort of a never-ending story of the audible multiverse.
And it is not often that a record projects a smile on my face, but – by Jove – this one surely did. An elegantly crafted piece of alloy, so effortlessly geeky that it surely will equal the big prog masters of these terrible times.
And that is quite a badge of honor.
Ed’s note: And congrats, the record made it onto the 2021 Top 10 Records! The RMR board suggests a dose of Mindwork who just awoke from a long slumber. Oh, and you might also be interested in our kinda-sorta mid-year selection of the most colorful out-of-the-box records. Hit it!