Review: Årabrot ‘Of Darkness And Light’

I had never heard of the prolific, Scandinavian artist, Kjetil Nernes, who essentially IS the band Årabrot, along with his musician wife Karin Park, prior to taking on their upcoming release, Of Darkness And Light for review. Evidently, Årabrot has made quite the name for themselves in the European noise-rock scene and have released a ton of material over the last few decades, however, I went into this review sight unseen, or more accurately, sound unheard.

Årabrot 'Of Darkness And Light' Artwork
Årabrot ‘Of Darkness And Light’ Artwork

Right off the bat, I will say that Nernes and Årabrot are completely all over the place musically. Of Darkness And Light showcases many, many different styles of rock and roll throughout the album’s ten tracks, making it hard to pigeonhole them to a specific style, as they flow, chameleon-like, from one style to the next, sometimes over the course of the same song. Behold opener Hangman’s House which is a kooky, driving, rocker that certainly sets the stage for the diverse sounds to come on Of Darkness And Light. The second single, You Cast Long Shadows is a weird, bouncy, Queens of the Stone Age-esque track, that’s complete with Homme-style guitar squeals, and well-timed handclaps.

Meanwhile, Horrors Of The Past comes off like a new wave throwback as Nernes undoubtedly spent some time listening to The Cure while writing this song as he certainly seems to be working on his best Robert Smith vocal delivery. Madness continues to dwell in new wave sounds, as it’s complete with plenty of synth and some drum machine action, while Cathedral Light is a riffy affair, complete with jarring rhythms that recall some UK post-punk like Killing Joke. The first single, We Want Blood, is a stomping, quirky track that I’d describe as another QOTSA-type song, certainly in its eccentricity and approach.

As we approach the second half of the album, Fire! is another bizarre, left-field track, that’s complete with some decent riffage, as well as some hard-to-define industrial overtones and some awesome background vocals from Park, as her voice acts as a great counterbalance to Nernes unconventional, sonic histrionics. Skeletons Trip The Light Fantastic is as weird as one would expect with a title like that, simultaneously conjuring up aural comparisons to John Frusciante’s peculiar solo albums, and some dance-y, new wave and post-punk.

they flow, chameleon-like, from one style to the next…

The penultimate Swan Killer a great organ intro, that highlights a lounge-y swing, and an earworm bass line and more great background vocals from Park. Not surprisingly, closer Love Under Will is another anomalous track that is truly all over the place, featuring odd guitar sounds, over-the-top synth flourishes, funky background vocals, and Nernes ever-shifting vocal delivery.

Of Darkness And Light, the title being a reference to Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra was recorded at Årabrot’s ‘church’ where the pair live in Sweden and was produced by acclaimed musician Alain Johannes of Queens of the Stone Age and Eleven fame, among others.

The album is certainly one of the most eccentric, unorthodox, and odd albums I’ve come across in some time. Nernes is certainly a prolific songwriter with a plethora of sounds and ideas swimming in his head, and he seems to have exorcised them all into the ten tracks that make up Of Darkness And Light. I must say, I didn’t initially click with this record, and I’m still not sure I do even after repeated listens, but I do marvel at the sounds and styles Årabrot were able to capture throughout.

Label: Pelagic Records
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Scribed by: Martin Williams