Arabs In Aspic -
Live At Avantgarden

(CD 2018, 75:06, Apollon Records)

The tracks:
  1- Syndenes Magi(11:07)
  2- Mørket 2(9:00)
  3- Mørket 3(11:43)
  4- Victim Of Your Father's Agony(11:13)
  5- Pictures In A Dream(6:28)
  6- Silver Storm(9:22)
  7- Mørket(8:42)
  8- One(7:31)

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Website info; “Arabs In Aspic is a Norwegian band, rooted in 1997 and led by guitarist and vocalist Jostein Smeby and rythm guitarist and Theremin player, Tommy Ingebrigtsen. Since they met through their common love for Seventies heavy rock music (especially Black Sabbath) they've been playing together with different personel, each playing different kinds of heavy music until Arabs In Aspic surged. They said goodbye to playing covers and the band was ready with Hammond organ player Magnar Krutvik, drummer Eskil Nyhus and his brother, bass player Terje Nyhus. The quartet was later joined by Stig Arve Jorgenson on backing vocals and Hammond organ, as Magnar changed to playing acoustic guitar and synthesizers. After a few years and two releases (the EP Progeria and the CD Far Out In Aradabia) the band was put on hold, due to various reasons. In 2006 Jostein, Eskil and Stig hooked up with bass player Erik Paulsen and formed what was known as Arabs In Aspic II. In 2009 the band recorded the critically awarded Strange Frame Of Mind (see review), in Denmark. Before the vinyl release of Strange Frame Of Mind in 2012 they decided to cut the II in the band name and go back to just Arabs in Aspic. Then Arabs In Aspic released Pictures In A Dream (2013, see review), Victim Of Your Father's Agony (2015, see review), Syndenes Magi (2017) and the live album Live At Avantgarden (2018), along and a 2-LP compilation (2011) and two singles (in 2003 and 2018).”

The album Live At Avantgarden is my first musical encounter with Arabs In Aspic and, as a huge fan of the Hammond organ and Heavy - and Skandinavian Prog, I wonder how on earth it has been possible that I overlooked Arabs In Aspic during all those years? Because I am delighted about the 8, often extended, mid-long compositions: very melodic and harmonic, and simply structured, with obvious hints from legendary prog bands, and loaded with Hammond and wah-wah guitar. But I don't consider it as too derivative, because these guys have managed to blend the sound of their heroes with their own, very tasteful and exciting touch, also due to the native vocals in some tracks, along with English vocals in others.

My highlights:

Syndenes Magi (11:07) : An intro with soaring Mellotron violins evoking ITCOTCK and Red King Crimson era, then a slow and hypnotizing rhythm (early Anekdoten atmosphere), a heavy and raw guitar joins, with King Crimson assorted percussion and short vocals contributions. The music turns into a more lush and bombastic sound, with mellow Hammond and fiery electric guitar runs. The Norwegian vocals sound inspired and delicate in a mellow climate with dreamy Hammond organ, joined by powerful and moving bluesy guitar work. In the final part the music culminates into bombastic featuring exciting Hammond and biting wah-wah guitar, what a captivating sound!

Mørket 3 (11:43) : A dreamy intro featuring twanging guitar and soaring Mellotron flute, then melancholic vocals join, followed by a slow rhythm follows with an emotional vocal outburst. Gradually the music turns in a more lush sound with bombastic Hammond and wah-wah guitar, reminding me of Italian Heavy proggers Wicked Minds (also on the Black Widow label). The Hammond rules but the band surprises with some electric piano. Then an acceleration, heavy wah-wah guitar, swirling Hammond and a propulsive rhythm-section, close to a psychedelic climate with hints from early Pink Floyd. Next a catchy mid-tempo with swirling Hammond solo and finally a fiery electric guitar solo with swinging clavinet and lush Hammond, now Heavy Prog reigns.

Victim Of Your Father's Agony (11:13) : The Hammond and wah-wah guitar dominate, in a slow rhythm, joined by decent English vocals (with a slight accent) and vocal harmonies, Atomic Rooster come to my mind (organ and hevay guitar riffs). Halfway a dreamy part with vocal harmonies, tender guitar and piano, turning into more bombastic with powerful bluesy guitar and Mellotron violins, nice combination! Then an acceleration with Fripperian guitar and lots of vintage gear: Hammond, Mellotron, Moog synthesizer and Fender electric piano. Next the highlight in this long track, a long and strongly build-up guitar solo, from sensitive to psychedelic and finally biting with heavy wah-wah, accompanied by lush Hammond and propulsive beats, wow, what an exciting blend of psychedelia and Heavy Prog!

Silver Storm (9:22) : First the distinctive sound of the Leslie box tremolo with the Hammond organ, then a slow rhythm with English vocals and bluesy guitar. Gradually the music shifts to a psychedelic wah-wah solo with soaring Hammond, very compelling. Halfway a dreamy atmosphere, slow drum beats, mellow Hammond and hypnotizing guitar work. Then the spectacular use of the wah-wah pedal, blended with Mellotron violins, like “early Pink Floyd psychedelia meets early King Crimson”, very compelling, goose bumps! In the final part another sensational, very biting wah-wah guitar solo, I love it.

One (7:31) : This final track delivers a Deep Purple sound, in a slow rhythm, then moving guitar and soaring Mellotron violins, topped with dreamy English vocals, simply wonderful. Next an acceleration in a sumptuous atmosphere with fiery, wah wah drenched guitar and waves of the Hammond and Mellotron. Halfway Heavy Prog with swirling Hammond, alongside heavy guitar riffs, propulsive drum beats, and a bass solo with Mellotron sounds, how creative. Then lots of Hammond and heavy guitar, culminating into a bombastic final part featuring wah-wah guitar, lush Hammond and high pitched vocals, like David Byron, a strong goodbey, very much appreciated by the crowd!

Highly recommended, this Hammond - and wah-wah guitar drenched music, I am going to check out this band for their studio-albums!

**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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