- Sax/Guitar dual riffing
In case you aren’t familiar with them yet, Seven Impale is a young band with a convincing, modern vision of jazz. 2013 gave us their debut EP, “Beginning/Relieve,” and I was instantly caught off guard when I heard it. Who was this young, fashionable Norwegian band with a knack for dense soundscapes, fascinating rhythmic structures, and an aggressive, 21st century approach to jazz-rock? Well, I’m glad I found out, because their EP, which left the impression of a promissing new band doing really interesting things, didn’t leave a false impression in the least. Now, with the release of their debut album, City of the Sun, we see a larger scale materialization of what these guys are all about.
What’s really cool about Seven Impale is that at this early point in their career they’re already nailing a signature sound. Essentially their music is built on the ability to seamlessly shift from dreamy, textured jazz inspired rock to riffs that are often brutally heavy, and often headspinning. “Eschaton Horo” is exemplary of this. On this track we get everything from quirky and playful moments of odd-rhythmic circularity to soothing, modern verses, dreamy jazz chord changes with soulful sax melodies, and uber heavy riffing, characterized on this song (as well as throughout the album) by a dense, juicy doubling of sax and distorted guitar. “Eschaton Horo” moves from a colorful and moody beginning which transforms to an eventual massive wall of sound, an absolute feast of meaty, dirty riffs. Imagine somewhere between Zappa and Crimson’s Lark’s Tongue in Aspic, but much more modern and you’ll get the picture. Really cool stuff.
Another aspect of their music that’s worthy of mentioning is their tendency to build a piece towards a really epic, moving melodic instrumental section. This is evident especially on pieces such as “Wind Sheers,” “Oh My Gravity!” and “God Left Us for a Black Dressed Woman.” After an ominously tense vocal intro followed by a good dose of jazz, augmented by flerby guitar textures, weaving woodwinds, and subtle drumming, Seven Impale takes us into a bit of Gentle Giant-esque headspinning prog rhythm ending up in a quiet middle section. From here, following their signature duo of heavy guitars, some absolutely ripping vocals explode into into a classy, emotional, and highly memorable series of delicious chord changes with a melody of pure gold to take us to the end. “Extraction” proves itself to be first class in its ability to combine somber melancholy with a high sense of eclecticism and doesn’t fail to cap it off with a killer ending characterized by an emotional finish augmented by a beautiful, longing melody.
When it comes to saving the best for last though, these Norwegian proggers definitely made the right choice by capping it off with the epic piece, “God Left Us for a Black Dressed Woman.” Before I get to the epic ending, let’s take a peak at what’s in store with this track that pushes 15 minutes in length. They are really in no hurry to go anywhere, but this is a decision purposely made where the band lets the music sink in carefully through chord changes that slowly meld into each other as they take you on a visceral journey. As the piece gets going we eventually arrive a some really cool odd-time signature proggy stuff with hints of RIO style, featuring unison guitar/keys/sax, which then briefly breaks into some dirty riffing before moving back to a carefully built vocal section where the accompaniment masterfully widens. The follow up here is marvelous as an ascending/descending sax line carries us over absolutely perfect chord changes. Heavy riffing and plenty of melodic lines lead us to the final stretch. Around the eleven minute mark a powerful guitar melody reduces to a powerful, tender moment on the piano, a motif which repeats many times as the sax comes in to double the main melody, bass and drums slowly building the piece. From tom hits and plucked notes to swelling Hammond, we eventually arrive at a gargantuan post-rock-esque wall of sound that emphasizes a heavenly melody; however, at this point the surprise begins. Whereas several tracks on the album took the opportunity to end off with such a beautiful theme, “God Left Us for a Black Dressed Woman” throws a wrench in it by suddenly shifting to an abstract riff that quickly takes a turn for the brutal, introducing a pulverizing metallic line like only the combo of Seven Impale’s sax/guitar can do it. It’s brief, sudden, and even shocking, but nevertheless serves as a really cool ending to a great album.
City of the Sun, simply put, is a fantastic debut album with the power to reach a wide audience. Fans of King Crimson, Jaga Jazzist, Shining, and Zappa will certainly be pleased with the style, while I could see even non-prog/jazz fans enjoying the way Seven Impale seeks to to push conventional genre boundaries, pay homage to classic sounds, but still be distinctively modern. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more from this band, a group that I believe could become a big name in the future.