Norwegian progressive/post-rock band Delvoid released a perfectly titled album in “Serene” this week. I say that because serenity is the perfect noun to describe what one feels listening to this album. With slow-building passages and plenty of musical space to explore, listeners will follow along on the 75 minute journey, trekking its ebbs and flows.
Delvoid is able to capture that serene feeling throughout their latest album due to their balancing of hard and soft passages. When the heaviness shows, the album reminds me of bands like Tool and Riverside, and as the album slows in pace, I cannot help but remember albums like “The Ever Present Shadow” by Quiet Child or “Memorial” by Russian Circles. Blending these seemingly oil-and-water types of rock music, one cannot help but appreciate what Delvoid has done, succeeding in casually manipulating the emotions of its listeners. Exploring themes of disillusionment and developmental psychology, the dark subject matter of the album is felt with the softer, quieter vocals of Alexander Delver, oftentimes traveling amongst dazing atmospheres or sung sharply in contention. With a voice similar to Maynard James Keenan of Tool and Ian Kenny of Karnivool, Delver’s performance is extraordinary, and helps to add depth to the simplistic but equally startling orchestrations. Add the amazing production quality of this self-produced album, and the listener can understand the lofty goals going into “Serene.”
As for the rest of the band, the musical arrangements uniquely flow between harder metal riffs and freed post-rock textures. Just listen to the two opening tracks “Intro” and “Cocoon.” Taking nearly five minutes to build into the first vocals of the album, I remember thinking “Serene” was an instrumental album on my first listen. While to some this slow buildup might take too long to feed their A.D.D., I urge you all to stick around (and to anticipate many more slow build moments). It is well worth the wait, especially the melancholic synthesizers and dominant bass lines. This is where the Riverside comparison comes in, since bassist Magnus Andersen shines throughout “Serene.” It’s mainly because of his presence that this album is tranquil, and also why it bites on occasion. Shifting between the beautiful instrumentations of “Cacoon” to the edgy riffs of “Steambreather,” Andersen elevates the band, and allows the band to more accurately arrange its story.
With the fantastic vocals, lyrics, and orchestrations of the actual band members, the listener will consider “Serene’s” guest musicians a bonus. Featuring Ole Henrik Moe and several other classical musicians of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Delvoid is able to touch upon ideas and sounds that truly make this album progressive. From the tribal instruments in the aptly named “Tribe” to the orchestral instruments throughout, I thoroughly enjoyed these moments the most. Usually encompassing the longer, drawn out moments, I love to ride the emotional roller coaster that is placed before me. Helping to accentuate the mood told in each song, I feel the album’s guest musicians help make this album feel whole, too hard to imagine what it’d be like without them. Maybe Delvoid should recruit these guest musicians in future albums? Just a thought.
The album’s best song is easily its epic title track “Serene.” Lasting nearly twenty minutes, the listener rides the duration of this song like a leaf in a stream. While some moments are smoother, pleasing, and innocuous (the song’s introduction), the listener soon experiences the obstructions and interjections of the track (around the 2:00 mark), overcome with a sense of distress for what lies before them. Once we arrive at the fifteen minute mark, we experience the most passionate display by the entire band. A slow build that leads to a dramatic peak, this section of the song is the reason why I listen to this genre, period. The title track, like the rest of the album, is engaging, extensive, and disconcerting. No matter how soft and pleasant a current is, there is always something further down ready to disrupt the ride. Listening to “Serene” is just like that situation, except the listener will eagerly anticipate those vicious, mood-changing moments.
Delvoid’s “Serene” is a musical exploration, a story of twists, turns, ups, and downs. It is not for those wanting direct, three or four minute songs, but for those wanting to feel the evolution of a track no matter how long it takes. For fans of bands I’ve mentioned earlier, I highly recommend this album. Please support Delvoid by checking out their website, and by following them on Facebook for band updates. To think this is the band’s second album, I look forward to anything they release in the future.
Update: Check out my interview with drummer Espen Granseth here!