Major Parkinson - Valesa Chapter I: Velvet Prison

Kev Rowland

I have been aware of this Norwegian band for some time, but the only album I had come across prior to this was 2014’s ‘Twilight Cinema’, which was their third release, and I missed out altogether on both ‘Blackbox’ and the live ‘A Night At The Opera’ which have both been highly regarded. There was quite a change in line-up since ‘Twilight Cinema’, and the current line-up only contains singer Jon Ivar Kollbotn, bassist Eivind Gammersvik and keyboard player Christian Bjørknes who appeared on that album, and the current seven-person line-up has been greatly extended on this release with a large number of guests.

With 17 songs and a playing time of more than an hour, this is an album which is heavily dominated by keyboards and huge production, with arrangements and sounds that are very much rooted in the Eighties. Jon’s vocals are gravelly and dominate proceedings, with the rest of the band set to allow those vocals to always be front and centre, and while there are progressive elements here, there is also plenty of pop. At times they come across as being heavily influenced by Depeche Mode, while the drums often sound as if they are generated by a drum machine as opposed to drummer Sondre Veland which is obviously quite deliberate. What lifts this away from being merely something I would dismiss (as I did with much of the pop scene in the 80’s) is the quality of the material on offer and especially the vocals which lift this to new levels. It is not an album to which I can see myself often returning, but that has far more to do with my personal tastes as opposed to anything particularly poor with the album. There is no doubt there is something quite special going on here, with Jon being a star in his own right, and fans of this style of music will find much here to enjoy but I confess to not liking it as much as the last album of theirs that I heard.

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