Three years after the release of their striking and quickly acclaimed debut album, Tales of a Madman, Norwegian quartet Pigeon Lake return with its successor in Barriers Fall. The time between has seen changes within the band and a reassessment of the way forward; a shift sparking an evolution in sound too which is actually hard to pin down but openly inflaming the Oslo outfit’s new offering and release which like its predecessor at the time, will make a definite rival to those around it for one of the most essential investigations of the year.
Since emerging in the opening smiles of 2012, Pigeon Lake has grown to be one of the most compelling propositions on the melodic rock/metal landscape. Founded by vocalist/guitarist Christopher Schackt and completed by childhood friend and drummer Andreas Prestby and bassist Kenneth Stiansen, the band instantly sparked attention and praise with the I: Mindrape EP later in that first year. Its themes of domestic violence, sexual assault, and mental health were as striking as the raw sounds inciting ears. The three became four with the addition of lead guitarist Magnus Engemoen soon after while the following year saw Stiansen replaced by Anders Børresen. As their sound moved towards a flavouring more akin to the likes of Katatonia, Stone Sour, and The Ocean, the band’s live presence escalated before they got down to work creating Tales of a Madman, its release coming in the Autumn of 2014 and followed by the band heavily hitting the road again including taking their first steps touring Europe.
Linking up with Wormholedeath Records in recent times provided the spark for that previously mentioned re-assessment and the resulting highly amicable departure of Børresen and Prestby which was soon followed by the joining of bassist Håkon Bechholm and drummer Jonas Rønningen. Now the new line-up has unveiled Barriers Fall, an encounter feeling darker and rawer than that first album yet their most melodically seductive and inventively mature adventure yet.
The album opens with Ragnarok, grooves instantly wrapping ears with shadow lined radiance. There is a portentous edge to them though, nothing imposing but clearly there as rhythms jab and riffs collude around them. Magnetic straight away, the track settles down into a heavy prowl where all those imposing elements erupt for a few rapacious seconds before Schackt’s cleaner tones steer the tempest into kinder waters. Abrasive growls remain alongside him though as the song merges predatory and seductive sides, luring the imagination into a provocative squall of emotion and intensity.
It is a striking start soon eclipsed by the just as tempestuous roar of Lyra. Nagging riffs align with Schackt’s distinctive tones initially, the bass prowling around them before the incendiary heart of the track erupts with fiery melodies and antagonistic tendencies. Harmonies and melodic tempting bewitch as the song subsequently shares its evolving soundscape, contrasting textures blending their potencies in one beguiling encounter. There is definitely something of the aforementioned Katatonia to the song and indeed album but equally the likes of Opeth and Swallow The Sun come to mind though in all honesty Pigeon Lake here and across Barriers Fall only reveal their own character of sound and imagination.
The album’s title track is next, seducing with a mesmerising poetic melody and calm vocal reflection before Rønningen’s beats add increasing threat. In time, as things increasingly simmer with greater intensity, everything comes to a head, vocals spilling their psychosis as a sonic causticity descends. A relative relief in the storm comes with the closing breaths of the excellent track before the more mercurial presence of The Futility of You takes the listener into a controlled yet seemingly unstable emotional embrace. Again the music is a web of trespass and radiance, vocals matching the changeable mood with suggestive prowess as wiry hooks and almost toxic melodies tempt and trap the imagination. Epitomising the album as a whole, the track only reveals new layers and textures with every listen, each time within it seeing growing attraction and the blossoming of image painting thoughts.
Hide and Seek runs a fine line of control and lawlessness, its cauldron of corrosive energy restrained and held back by the harmonic and melodic beauty hugging the senses though it is never more than a breath from breaking free while within Sunder it shapes the predatory nature of a track which equally is as much an oasis of elegance and gentle repose as a turbulent tempest; a beauty and beast of inner and worldly turmoil.
Senses harrying riffs brings A Familiar Problem to bear on ears next, delicious bait opening up into a just as enticing fusion of roaming grooves and brooding rhythms around feral toned vocals. That previously mentioned raw element of the release has its head with the harsh throated presence of Schackt adding to the psychotic edge of the track with clean and melody woven radiancy just as powerful before Perfect Place casts its variable cyclone on the passions. Irresistible within its first moments and only stealing greater lust thereon in, the track breeds an addiction as rich as its unpredictability to provide if not the pinnacle, one of many.
Closing track Let’s Pretend takes the listener into one final embrace of emotional restlessness and creative anxiety, the song as the album whilst being intricately woven and layered is almost anarchic in its nature and heart. It is a fine end to another encounter with Pigeon Lake which simply blossoms and further impresses with every listen. To be fussy, personal tastes would see Schackt’s throat scarring vocal side reduced to allow his excellent clean and emotionally suggestive tones to have an even larger say but it is a mere passing thought in a release which stirs every part of body and mind.
Barriers Fall is available now through Wormholedeath Records across most online stores.
Pete RingMaster 17/05/2017
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