Look, I know I sometimes sound like a broken record but I swear that the first thing I thought of when the darkly burbling synth intro to Night Jerks, the third full-length from Norway’s Okkultokrati, subsided and the sheet-metal one-two punch of opening number proper Dazeripper kicked in was the opening moments of Voivod’s avant-metal meisterwerk Nothingface.
I know, I know, I’m ‘obsessed’, but, seriously, that wee intro suddenly giving way to a doubled-up tight powerchord and one-two-one-two skronk thwack backed up with punchy-as-all-hell drums made me sit bolt upright with the ghost of The Unknown Knows zapping across my cortex. Sure, it might just be me hearing it, but I heard it goddammit!!
You’ll be happy to know that now that we have the obligatory Voivod reference out of the way, they won’t be rearing their French-Canadian heads here again, as by-and-large the frames of reference for Night Jerkslie squarely with others. Once that opening shock is over, the rest of Dazeripper – and Night Jerksas a whole – puts me firmly in mind of weirdo post-garage-synth-punk Sub Poppers Six Finger Satellite’s magnificent octopus of a record Law Of Ruins.
Driven by chugging fuzzed-up bass Dazeripper rolls along in a manner not massively unlike said album’s Race Against Space, albeit delivered in a more seethingly aggressive vein, with trebly ripping Chrome-ium guitars slashing across the tight rhythm and some nasty vocals courtesy of Henning Wisth, who may well be the illegitimate son of John Brannon.
One thing that this opening gambit makes clear is that Okkultokrati continue to evolve, having moved on from the more obvious crust/D-Beat with metallic leanings that typified their 2010 debut album No Light For Mass, sloughing off a little more of that skin that still remained on 2012’s Snakereigns and heading further into noise-rock territory. It would seem that this move into more outré territories was driven by guitarist Pål Bredrup’s 2013 injury that resulted in him having to switch to keyboards and the subsequent recruitment of Årabrot mainman Kjetil Nernes to fill the vacant axeman spot. Aspects of Nernes’ and Årabrot’s uncomfortable trebly tone certainly sit more to the fore than the sound of old and Bredrup contributes several keyboard-lead textural numbers that very much lean toward that Six Finger Satellite circa-Law Of Ruins sound too. Throw in a bit of Chrome-style retro-futurist industrial garage psych rock and you definitely have the recipe for what’s on display throughout Night Jerks.
The track Night Jerks itself brings that hardcore edge back to the fore with that uptempo hardcore oompah beat but keeps the guitars needling and adds a cavernous ambience to the overall sound. Following on from this Zero Kulto is four minutes of menacing murk built around a synth line like an idling motor with deep pulsing percussive punctuation and Moon Daggers has an odd rockabilly swagger to its relentless rhythm flanging distorted synth and shredded guitar mangling.
Now, whilst Wisth channels that throat-ripping Brannon menace to great aplomb on Moon Dagger and elsewhere, on Rose Crux he drops into a droning lower-register goth baritone that puts me in mind of a pitch-shifted John Lydon as he sounded on PiL’s Metal Box that just sits so right with the throbbing, writhing hypnotic post-punk tune that the band assemble around him from starkly minimalist snare hits, sea-sick guitars and bubbling synth. A definite stand-out.
The Ladder (Punched Out) opens with clipped, atonal metronomic guitar with a decidedly steely edge and a real vintage Killing Joke vibe but quickly develops a loping bluesy feel that, when combined with the sheet metal sound of the guitar and the venomous delivery of Wisth, evokes a serious Unsane flavour, firmly aided by steely off-kilter lead parts and slide parts sat way down in the mix to add to the unsettling ambience.
Speaking of unsettling, closing sixteen minute epic Cosmic Wynter builds from effected, delayed watery guitars and strange bongo sounds first into an ethereal drone and then into an odd, rubbery rhythmic bassy synth beast that ebbs and flows across the course of the track, occasionally joined by those bongos, a slow pounding industrial crunch and, finally, a stratospheric tangle of heavily treated guitar leads that Paul Leary himself would be proud of. A fittingly strange ending to a strange recording.
So, if you come to Night Jerks hoping for well-delivered metallic crusty D-Beat, you’ll be sorely disappointed, but if you head over to Southern Lord I’m sure they have a warehouse full of that crap they’d be happy to give you just to get it off their hands.
No, Okkultokrati are on their own trip here and based upon the path so far, Night Jerks is merely the latest step on the trail to infinitely stranger climes, but you can be damn sure that having dug this album so deeply I’ll be with ’em every step of the way.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson