Motorpsycho – The Crucible (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 40:30 minutes | 439 MB | Genre: Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Rune Grammofon
The Crucible starts where The Tower ended, but it soon takes on its own hue, and it is clear that it cannot be called a ‘sequel’ as such: this is very much a step further out than anywhere the band ventured on The Tower. While it is broader lyrically speaking, it is even sharper focused musically and, if possible, even more idiosyncratic and insular than ever: unarguably a Motorpsycho album. There aren’t many traditional song structures or pop format platitudes on display, and there is indeed hardly any respect paid to any trad rock song conventions on the whole album, but that’s not really what one listens to Motorpsycho for anyway, is it? From the most Neanderthal of rock riffs to the most rhythmically oblique polytonal solo sections they’ve ever recorded, this album musically seems to sum up the extremes of the band’s current interests and concerns.
The Crucible was recorded at Monnow Valley Studios in Wales in August 2018 by Hans Magnus Ryan (guitars, vocals), Bent Sæther (bass, vocals, sundry) and Tomas Järmyr (drums), with co-producers Andrew Scheps and Deathprod. To these ears, and to the band’s satisfaction, this co-production ploy worked out wonderfully, and has resulted in a beautifully crafted record, smaller in size but at least equal in ambition to its celebrated predecessor. It is somehow both more focused, and denser in content, but also compositionally more ambitious than The Tower. One would perhaps think that this necessarily results in a diminished sonic assault, but the album still packs a wallop like a good rock record should. And – ‘for once’ some waggish tongues would say – does not outstay its welcome.When Norway’s Motorpsycho released the sprawling double-length The Tower in 2017, it was a major event. Recorded at Rancho de Luna studios in Joshua Tree with new drummer Tomas Järmyr, it swerved through progressive rock, psych, and vanguard metal riffage. By the accounts of most fans and critics, it was among the most ambitious and successful recordings in Motorpsycho’s three-decade career. After a single listen, it’s obvious that The Crucible, co-produced by Andrew Scheps and Deathprod, is a sequel: it begins where Here Be Monsters, their last offering, ended. That said, it contains a unique flavor and aesthetic. While only half its predecessor’s length, the album is denser and more focused in all areas. Recorded in Wales and several studios in Norway — Deathprod’s Audio Virus Lab among them — its three extended tracks range between eight-and-a-half and 20 minutes. Two cuts here — “Lux Aeterna” and the title track — are actually multi-part suites cutting across multiple genres, time signatures, keys, dynamics, and textures. The most prominent references in the music here are Black Sabbath, King Crimson (especially with the abundant use of Mellotrons), and Yes, with abundant nods elsewhere. Motorpsycho use these references not for the sake of cleverness but to frame new compositional architectures and musical structures. These guys aren’t motivated by commercial success — they could care less if punters like it or not — they set their own rules. Opener “Psychotzar” is closest to classic “psycho rock.” Its nasty bass and guitar riffs recall Sabbath and it’s drenched in stoner rock, complete with Hans Magnus Ryan’s two squalling guitar solos. After the second one, it downshifts into a doomy, opaque power ballad with Bent Sæther and Ryan sharing harmony vocals until it all falls into a drone. “Lux Aeterna” is the most beautiful track here. Over ten-minutes long, its labyrinthine construction is introduced by acoustic guitars, Mellotron, and vocals that recall CSN (Susanna Wallumrød guests in the three-part harmony) before a filthy overcharged bassline, crashing, rolling drums, punched-up Mellotrons, and Lars Horntveth’s reeds enter regally, opening the entire tune up into a Crimson-esque jam that wouldn’t have been out of place on In the Wake of Poseidon. It changes shape again for chaotic, deep prog, improvisation, and psychedelia before building to a sublime, wonderfully assonant conclusion. In many ways, the 20-minute title piece feels like a suite that bridges the previous two numbers as it contains elements of both, though it goes beyond either in reach and expression. During this long journey, Motorpsycho quotes from Crimson’s “Larks Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 2,” and “Red” approaches Yes’ Tales from Topographic Oceans and Gentle Giant’s Octopus, but it also moves through noise rock, stoner metal, European free jazz, Thin Lizzy, late Beatles, and more. It constantly changes shape and dynamic, electric and acoustic, as it moves to an opaque horizon. Easily as satisfying as The Tower, The Crucible builds on its predecessor’s achievement with brilliant composition, inspired performance, and consummate musicianship. It is an excellent example of how to mine rock’s past in order to discover its future. – Thom Jurek
1-01. Motorpsycho – Psychotzar (08:43)
1-02. Motorpsycho – Lux Aeterna (10:55)
1-03. Motorpsycho – The Crucible (20:51)