Having already impressed with their self titled debut released in 2010 Oslo progressive psychedelic rock band Spirits Of The Dead return with their follow-up The Great God Pan. Their first release stirred up the critics and listening public alike, being named in the Classic Rock Magazine’s top 50 albums-of-the-year list a notable achievement; their contemporary sound born from the electric passion of the late sixties and opening seventies years finding a home in the hearts of a growing multitude. The Great God Pan will undoubtedly expand upon that, the diverse experimental feel the band has brought to it has fused a warm inviting flow of folk rock to some striking and surprising creative detours.
Spirits Of The Dead have a sound that is impossible to solidly pin down as being in a certain genre, it has the folk rock tag but unlike their more raucous counterparts they deliver their music with a gentler and more sophisticated hand, and the same with the progressive rock label they get attached to, they certainly have that weapon in their arsenal but it is much more subtle and eloquent than from other artists. Also strapped with influences such as jazz, 70’s electric psychedelic, and simple indie rock, they keep the listener on their toes from song to song, the diversity within the six pieces of wonder on the album impressive and very satisfying.
The Great God Pan is a more conceptual album than their debut, taking the listener on a tour of the beauties and darkest deepest corners of Pan’s Kingdom. The journey begins at Mighty Mountain, a slow ascent that builds as the guitar of Ole Øvstedal paints an immediate landscape of wonder and the vocals of Ragnar Vikse smoothly float into view. Within moments scuzzy wrong footing sounds eagerly strike before settling once more. Eventually the track reveals its full glory, opening out into a 70’s flavoured tapestry laced with a joyful Hawkwind/ELO spiced feel. The folky Leaves Of Last Year’s Fall takes over with the same joyous cheer, its jazz prog guitar sounds tripping through the ear delightfully. The drums of Geir Thorstensen fluently guiding the track especially where it takes a more frantic turn and throughout Deadly Nightshade and his bass openly dance.
Two tracks especially stand out on the release, the first coming next in the electrified sound and feel of Pure As The Lotus. It ripples with skilful creativity bringing a Doors like kaleidoscope of melodies and wandering exotic sounds full of eastern promise, or in this case Norwegian. The other challenger for track of the album is the disturbing and slightly disorientating atmospheric Casting The Runes. With the sense of disarray and uncaged lost souls, released and brought forth with the distorted and unhinged muffled vocals, the song is a masterpiece is misdirection; the flowing mellow and melodic spine of the track keeping the darker elements hidden until they leap forth from their hiding places.
Splitting those two is the title track, its subdued but purposeful mood a gentle example that Spirits Of The Dead have versatility as their middle name. It has a slight Paul Simon feel about it, though hopefully that will not offend. The gentle summer ebb and flow of GoldBerry closes the release, its electric urgency of certain parts a seamless contrast and compliment to the slow breezy pace of others.
The Great God Pan is one of those gems that from first play there is an instant attraction and delight but also gets better with each subsequent stroll through its lands as more treasure are reveal ed. With this release Spirits Of The Dead will leap into the hearts of so many more around the world, they deserve to for creating such a beautiful piece of musical history.
The Great God Pan is released on White Elephant Records August 1st.
Pete RingMaster 17/06/2011