Hailing from Bergen, Norway, Drott is composed of Arve Isdal (Enslaved), Ivar Thormodsæter (Ulver), and musician Matias Monsen who has played with and arranged music for artists like Aurora, Sondre Lerche, and Madrugada. With their debut album Orcus, Drott rolls out an ambitious slab of psychedelic progressive rock and metal that works quite well.
So what does Drott sound like? Promotional materials for the album described it a progressive blackened folk. While there is some acoustic instrumentation and plenty of gloom, the music doesn’t really leap out to me as either folk or blackened. To my mind, a more appropriate label might be progressive psychedelic melancholia, as the songs bounce back and forth between rock and metal and tend to stay on the more atmospheric side of things.
The mostly instrumental songs that comprise Orcus are usually built around just one or two relatively simple musical concepts that the band then builds up, embellishes, and explores, having nourished these simple themes into full on soundscapes.
But is it good? For this reviewer, it’s fantastic. Although the musical styles are a bit all over the map, the musical aesthetic of the album is for the most part cohesive: introspective, melancholic, and psychedelic. That said, this is not an album for everybody. Some might find the themes explored on this album to be a bit underwritten. Other listeners may lack the patience to accompany the band on the slowly developing musical journeys that many of these tracks represent. And for some, the music here may just be a little too weird.
But for those who enjoy introspective, psychedelic music, with a bit eclecticism, Orcus is a fantastic voyage. Fans of Enslaved’s more psychedelic and ambient moments will certainly find a lot to enjoy here and may find themselves questioning if Arve Isdal has more to do with crafting Enslaved’s songs than that band’s writing credits would have you believe. Or is Arve Isdal the George Harrison of Enslaved, neglected as an accomplished songwriter in his own right in the shadow of the monumental talents of his bandmates? Having heard what he is capable of on Orcus, I would love to see Isdal take a more active role in the songwriting process on future Enslaved releases.
Fans of Ulver will likely not be surprised to hear that Ivar Thormodsæter’s percussion work on Orcus involves extensive use of samples and heavily processed—verging on industrial—drum sounds.
Standout tracks on Orcus include „The Marauders,“ a crushingly heavy exploration of psychedelic doom that feels much huger than its 2:40 run time would suggest, and the Mike Oldfield-esque „Grey Gull.“ I also love the album closing title track, the most openly Enslaved-like song on the album.
A few tracks are not as successful when viewed in the overall context of the album. While I enjoy the heavy psyche space rock/krautrock vibes of „Katabasis“ as a standalone song, it feels a bit out of place with the rest of the album.
Similarly, I dig the Far Eastern vibes of „By the Lunar Lake,“ which sounds like it could be from the soundtrack of a Studio Ghibli movie. But it chafes a bit against the gloomy atmosphere the rest of album cultivates.
But don’t let those minor criticisms dissuade you. If the idea of a slow burn, eclectic, psychedelic album is up your alley, give this album a few spins and see if it catches.
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