Art rock is a difficult genre of music to pin down, and is the only one into which I can lump this Swedish Band. Their music is a tightly wound, well produced measure focusing on the concept of “The Void.” The album’s mix allows each instrument room to be heard in their own space and comes together to create the mood of each piece. In listening to it, I am reminded of why art rock has always been a favorite of mine. When one can pick up an album from a band to whom they’d never listened and be thoroughly and utterly enthralled, the music is all that matters, not its genre typology.
The introductory track calmly expresses a particular brand of nihilism regarding personal perception and history. “Voluntary Slavery” leaps from the end of that introduction, burning with a metallic riff, that demands the listeners attention. Its darkness is accentuated in the lead up to the chorus by throwing in a near death growl for mood. “Turn to Gravel” hearkens back to depressive 70s rock, jamming and dancing around the void into its point and driving to its climax at the end of “Why won’t you fucking tell me what you want? Wake up!” There is little to no respite here as things continue to fall apart and meaning is disassembled. The song’s fuzzy, sludgy feel pulls these feelings out, leaving one raw in a way American Prog Metal giants Mastodon could only hope to do with their music.
“They Whisper” demonstrates the band’s willingness to diversify their sounds that sounds as if it could be directly off a Doors album at times with its jangly piano and fuzzy guitar riffs. Followed by “This Matter of Mine,” the album reverts to a frantic, fractured pace with its ringing bass and vocals that are all over the place from soft singing to growls and spoken word. After the instrumental “Seventeen Again,” the whole album seems to climax in the song “Ludvig & Sverker.” Possibly the album’s most accessible piece, the music, lyrics, and mood craft an emotional experience that examines yet another fractured relationship: a bond between parents and children.
Beardfish’s opus on this piece is “The Note,” a song that runs for nearly 16 minutes and contains four movements with itself. Comparable to Genesis’s Supper’s Ready, Opeth’s Black Rose Immortal, and Steven Wilson’s Raider II, this song encompasses the bands ability to evoke and manipulate the emotions of the listener through its ambling course.
This was my first experience with Beardfish and I feel that I will be returning to this band’s back catalogue of albums and will heartily anticipate their release of future albums. The album never falls into the retrophilia that Mastodon (a comparable analogue to this band) tends into following. While vintage sounding, the music incorporates new soundscapes and brings art rock stylings into the present. The music is surprisingly introspective and emotionally moving, and in the end is most definitely is worth a listen. I