- Having to clean up after regular ordinary Swedish mealtime.
For years, progressive music has been defined by a certain subtlety. Even when bands are utilizing percussive sounds or atonal passages, the listener is usually treated to an ethereal and measured composition. Not true for every band but, hey, it’s my review and I get to work in generalizations. I love the subtleties in progressive music, from symphonic passages to unique keyboard sounds, different instruments and philosophical lyrics. In their latest album, entitled Salon Des Refusés, Norwegian extreme metal band In Lingua Mortua takes these fine elements of progressive music and adds it to… well… extreme metal!
First, let me get something out in the open: this review isn’t exactly “unbiased.” I kind of have a hardcore man crush on frontman Lars Fredrik Frøislie; I may or may not believe he should be studied in European music conservatories and should be presented with every Grammy award that can be given, even the one for Best Country Album. Not to mention how much I love Wobbler and White Willow, the other two groups he plays in. That being said, I’m going to do my best to separate the man from the band, which shouldn’t be too hard because In Lingua Mortua is a departure from the symphonic prog music Lars plays in his other bands.
Like pairing a glass of fine wine with regular ordinary Swedish meatballs.
The album is essentially a progressive black metal album with a generous helping of vintage keyboards and a few passages featuring instruments not usually heard in heavy metal or its subgenres. In the group’s first album, Bellowing Sea – Racked By Tempest, there were two types of sections throughout the majority of the album: grinding, blast beat-driven black metal with keyboard in the distant background, and dark, ambient passages with piano, mellotron, bassoon, etc. The album had a progressive edge, but it was mostly a very well executed symphonic black metal album.
Salon Des Refusés, on the other hand, has much more variance in style and instrumentation. Drums rarely stick with the same type of beat for more than a handful of measure, a welcome departure from the almost constant blast beats of the first album. Time signature changes are by no means extremely common, but occur frequently enough to keep the rhythmic flow interesting and keep the listener on their feet.
And what about that varied instrumentation? The album opens with a track called “Full Fathom Five,” which introduces the listener quite nicely for what they’re in for: black metal-type guitars and drums, raspy growls and screams for the vocals, plenty of beautifully creepy mellotron, and… saxophone and flute solos. Reread the last sentence carefully if you need to; I made no typos.
You’ll get more of the same throughout. The first instrumental track “Catharsis” begins with a bass clarinet, giving a very rich and ominous sound before the “metal” instruments enter in force. There is a similar feel in the other instrumental, “Electrocution,” except the dark ambiance doesn’t eventually give way to distortion and drums.
At several points in the track “Like the Ocean,” you are presented with either saxophone or mellotron providing a contrast to a bombastic rhythm section of baritone guitar, bass and drums – with the three instruments seemingly attempting to take an aural battering ram right to both ears. The effect is euphoric, and truly defines what “progressive metal” means to me.
And even when In Lingua Mortua taps back into their gruesome Death and Black Metal roots, as in the appropriately titled “Into the Mincer,” the result is still intriguing. Why is this? Because they still manage to enhance the classic blast beat and tremolo guitar riff formula with a little splattering of mellotron and a few progressive musical elements. Welcome to the dark side, kvlt black metal purists.
The album finishes with “Cold Void Messiah,” an almost endless supply of engaging keyboard textures, interesting vocal parts and a little more saxophone for good measure, all being driven by an extremely heavy but always gripping rhythmic assault. Add in more acoustic sections to add more dynamic range and you have a solid ending to an unbelievably deep black metal album.
One of the nice features of this album that differs from other “black metal” bands is the quality of lyrics, which are much less about Satan and brutally maiming others and much more about social, political and philosophical commentary. Here’s a sample from “Like the Ocean”:
This is a mixture of the raw and the sublime/
the existence is crushed and shows its true face//
We could smell the truth in front of us/
as long as we’re not lost in each tiny detail//
I’m no philosopher, but that sounds rather like something Friedrich Nietzsche would say, doesn’t it? Well that’s because the lyrics are loosely based upon Ola Hansson’s writings about the famous philosopher (I’ll save you some Googling – Hansson was a Swedish poet and critic in the late 19th century). With the possible exception of Into the Mincer, which as I mentioned before is more brutal than profound, the lyrics found in this album are strikingly deep and thought-provoking.
Overall, I’m giving Salon Des Refusés 4.5 stars. I feel like it deserves the high score because it really is one of the shining jewels of the genre (the genre being Extreme Progressive Metal, or however you want to define it), not to mention one of my all time favorite metal albums. Feel free to check out their first album if you like what you hear, but realize that there aren’t nearly as many special moments and not as much replay value. All in all, In Lingua Mortua is at the top of their game in Salon Des Refusés, and I for one am anxiously awaiting their next effort.