(Agonia Records will release a new album by The Konsortium on June 1st in Europe and June 8th in North America, but you can read Andy Synn’s review of it today.)
Cast your minds back, if you will, to the heady days of 2011, which is when Islander stumbled across (and reviewed) the debut album by the mysterious Norwegian collective known as The Konsortium, in what would prove to be this site’s first (though by no means last) encounter with this group of memorable metallic misfits.
In the years since then we’ve covered the band a handful of times, whether it be appearing at Inferno Festival in 2012, or being picked out as one of my “Most Anticipated Albums of 2018”, but the truth of the matter is that pickings have been remarkably slim over the last seven(ish) years or so, as the various members of the band have all been busy with other projects and priorities.
Thankfully, Rogaland quickly makes it clear that all this time spent waiting has not been in vain, as it’s one hellishly addictive, ruthlessly aggressive, slab of Black/Thrash brilliance.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Konsortium and their devilishly distinctive sound – which can, loosely, be described as a hybrid of the guitar-focussed grooves of Craft/Satyricon/Gehenna with the gleeful weirdness of Dødheimsgard or Ved Buen Ende – what you can expect to hear on Rogaland is a unique blend of aggressive, angular riffage and electrifying tremolo melodies, backed by an immensely impressive rhythm section (particularly the drumming of Per Husebø, aka Dirge Rep) and littered with unexpected avant-garde touches, all whipped up into a turbulent tumult of unconventional, unpredictable songwriting designed to constantly keep you on your toes and breathless with anticipation for exactly what’s going to happen next.
The band’s two guitarists (now finally unmasked as B. Waldejer and T. Jacobsen, with some assistance assuredly provided by bassist Teloch, guitarist for both Mayhem and Nidingr) certainly know how to bring the riffs, and bring them hard, and there’s nary a moment on this album where you’re more than two steps away from a thrashy fret-mangler or a brash, headbang-inducing piece of heaviness.
But what makes each track just that little bit more unique, and that little bit more compelling, is how the quintet make sure to constantly keep the listener fully engaged and on the edge of their seat by tapping into both their primal instincts and their higher brain functions at the same time.
Frequently you’ll find a song seemingly moving in one direction, only to find yourself suddenly diverted down an unexpected – but no less attention-grabbing – tangent, which might, at different points, incorporate a blistering solo, an interlude of creepily atmospheric melody, or an unsettling array of warped clean vocals, each of which serve, in their own particular way, to add to the album’s overall character without stripping away any of its raw intensity.
Take the early pairing of “Skogen” and “Fjella”, for example. Both tracks are more than capable of riffing it up with the best of them, and both demonstrate the band’s impressive grasp of groove as well as their ability to blast and burn without remorse or restraint, but what makes them really stand out is the more off-beat, off-kilter sensibilities displayed throughout each track, from the multi-faceted vocal menace provided by Member 001 (aka Fredrik Guldberg Fugelli), to the plethora of warped, winding lead parts and devious, disquieting melodies interlaced amidst all the caterwauling chaos.
This latter element is perhaps most prominent on “Arv”, the album’s first single (and video), but remains a constant feature throughout the album, not least during “Havet”, the record’s penultimate, and most ambitiously conceived, performance, which finds the quintet stretching their muscles and testing their mettle over the course of ten-and-a-half minutes of ominous, oppressive atmosphere, chunky, chugging riffage, and wild, squalling tremolo runs, while also showcasing their more proggy proclivities and experimental inclinations through a series of bleakly melodic interludes and intricate instrumental intermissions.
True, the vague conceptual underpinning of the album – largely confined to the relatively underwhelming introductory track “Innferd”, along with some meandering between-song ambient effects – doesn’t really add much to the proceedings. But, with that being said, I’m pleased to note that Rogaland is currently riding high alongside The Weight of a Thousand Suns and The Blade Philosophical as one of my favourite albums of the year so far, and I have every confidence that more than a few of our readers will end up feeling the same.