I was a big fan of ‘Coal’, the fourth album from the Norwegian band, which was released in 2013, but for some reason didn’t pick up the next one, 2015’s ‘The Congregation’ until recently. It is a clever album, no doubt, but to my ears it is moving them far more into Muse territory than I am comfortable with. There is a wall of sound, lots of staccato riffing, and the feeling of this being a black and white assault as opposed to something rounded and with feeling. It is bleak and singular in its approach, and I soon found the whole album starting to wash over me. There is no doubt that Einar Solberg is an incredible singer, happily and easily moving into falsetto when it is appropriate, but with the blanket sound all around I was feeling suffocated without enough room to move. There just is not enough space, not enough contrast, and it feels like I am being smothered in sound. When the band does provide some gaps, it is a welcome relief but when the assault returns it makes it feel that much worse.
I felt incredibly disappointed after listening to this, as for me it does not stand up to the promise and quality of their earlier works. Even when a song such as “Rewind” starts differently with long held-down keyboard chords the oncoming bass and drums warns the listener what is to burst forth in a minute. There is little in the way of solos, and one can easily imagine the band performing this as a unit as opposed to recording different instruments at different times. But, there is an oppressive weight to the proceedings for me, and listening to this was far more of a chore than I ever expected it to me, although it has been widely appreciated by many others, and according to PA it is #14 in the charts for best album for 2015 so what do I know?