Norska – Self-Titled [9 out of 10]

By Andrew Bansal

Portland, Oregon based doom/sludge metal quartet Norska have been around for a few years, and due to their incredible live performances they garnered a more than decent cult following among avid followers of the sub-genre, which led to their self-released eponymous debut album early last year. Now, even as they are on the road doing a short US tour with Yob, with whom they also share bassist Aaron Rieseberg, the album has seen its official release on Brutal Panda Records on September 18th, in 12″ vinyl form, and I feel the time was right for me to give the album a few thorough listens and review it for the benefit of those who haven’t heard this band’s music.

Its 40-minute duration is just about perfect for music of this nature, and with just 5 tracks occupying the entire album, each of them is sufficiently long so as to let the band express themselves and keep their natural musical flow intact. The crushing opening track “Amnesia” grabs you by the throat straightaway, and with its brutal riffs, vocals and rhythm section, it maintains its grip all the way through. Towards the end it slows down to a near-halt, allowing every single note to resonate, leading into the next song “Nobody One Knows”. This one builds on a psychedelic intro and goes through various ebbs and flows, offering quite a few more musical elements as compared to the opening track. The intro passage on the clean guitar revisits the tune several times, and has a profound impact. It single-handedly makes me listen to the tune repeatedly. With these two completely contrasting tunes, you’d feel the album is already worth your money, but the best is yet to come.

“They Mostly Come At Night” is truly the centerpiece of the album, and its best track. This 13-minute composition presents everything the band stands for, going from a dreamily mellow beginning, gradually gaining momentum and intensity all the time, exploding into a sludgy doom passage, and then treating the listener with an immensely rich guitar-laden segment which is perhaps one of the highlights of the album. And guess what, we’re not even 4 minutes into the track! The rest of it alternates between sludge and psychedelia, and in the end it’s actually almost a shock to realize that 13 minutes have flown by. “Cholera” is more along the lines of Amnesia, but a lot more dynamic, as the doom segments are even slower and heavier, with contrasting interludes of the mellower stuff. The album comes to an end with the beautiful “Two Coins For The Ferryman”. The guitar work by Jim Lowder and Dustin Rieseberg is quite exemplary here, as they demonstrate how to achieve maximum impact even with a handful of notes, but it must be said that they are well complemented by Aaron Rieseberg on bass and Jason Oswald on drums, not only on this track but throughout the album.

Overall, this album exudes some terrific musicianship, and for fans of stoner/doom/sludge, it’s well worth the purchase. But what really separates it from the plethora of doom metal releases going around these days is the psychedelic element, and the manner in which it’s been intertwined with the heavier stuff. In terms of the production, the album has a very earthy sound, and I can say with certainty that the vinyl would sound even better, and would pretty much bring the band’s live sound into your living room. In fact, the only reason I’m rating this as a 9, and not a 10 out of 10 is because I’m reviewing it off of the mp3 version. I imagine the vinyl to be a perfect 10. Either way, Norska’s self-titled debut effort is an excellent release for heavy music fans, and paves the path for more great music from the band in the near future.

Rating: 9/10

Related: Audio interview with Jim Lowder

Record Label: Brutal Panda
Release Date: September 18th 2012

Track Listing:
1. Amnesia
2. Nobody One Knows
3. They Only Come At Night
4. Cholera
5. Two Coins For The Ferryman