Norway really does seem to be fertile soil for unusual takes on heavy music of all forms. Norwegian trio KITE‘s sound is at once familiar but also refreshingly hard to place. It’s as if someone has written down all the constituent elements of a modern heavy rock band – down tuned guitars, pounding rhythms, screeching vocals, loud/quiet dynamics – and then passed them to a bunch of musicians who’ve never actually heard the music before.
This is not a bad thing I assure you, as the result allows for instrumental tones shorn of any stereotypical metal trickery. Those low tuned guitars have a dirt to them but aren’t super loud or distorted. The drums are hit with precision and force but aren’t a clinical battery. The bass is dense but warm, and the production is very much of the ‘stick the band in a room and capture them playing’ type which is always a bonus. This band, it would seem, are all about the ragged edges.
What they’re not great on however, and what makes Irradiance a good album, if not a great one, is variation. Songs seems to be largely in the same key, in the same tense and trudging mode with the only dynamics really being the aforementioned loud/quiet pairing. There are inspired moments but there are also some, where, if you wandered into another room mid-track and came back with the album still playing, you’d have difficulty telling which song you were listening to.
They open well however. Ghost Signal crests in on an atmospheric drone into a few moments of the band locking in to a pounding beat. A strangled voice emerges over the top as they build the throb before hitting a legit badass chorus complete with a nasty little riff and the yelling taking on a more sung character. It’s an attention grabber, all restrained menace boiling up slowly.
A strangled voice emerges over the top as they build the throb before hitting a legit badass chorus complete with a nasty little riff…
The Dweller which follows is also a noirish little gem, a sort of dark bluesy swagger carries it along, like if COC had roped Rowland S. Howard in to write them a tune. And Blood Calls Blood opens promisingly with an almost black metal sounding riff giving way to a more psychedelic latter half, the vocals again skittering between a stifled scream, before the fatigue starts to kick in about half way through.
The rest of the album, while fine, drags a little. Tempos tend towards the slower, and they slip into an almost standard post-Sludge sound. While Morlock for example has a fine opening riff, the body of the song plods along without really going anywhere. The title track hits the 9 minute mark, and the melancholic guitar rumblings and screeched exhortations start to feel a little on the monotonous side.
Reveries breaks up the latter half of the album momentarily with a bit more variety and pace; there’s a recognisable chorus and even when it slows down again to some reverbed guitars for the end, the addition of a subtle synth drone adds a needed element of additional texture.
By the time Mistweaver closes things out it feels pretty much just like a recap of what’s come before it, another slow, tense, dark trawl with alternating yelled/sung vocals. Not awful, but it’s doesn’t ignite the same spark the way the opening duo or Reveries does. You’re left with the sense that the band have something unique dying to burst out, but it just hasn’t quite come through in the full range of colours and shapes it should do.
They’re far above any lazy tags you could throw at them, not quite post-metal or sludge, too slow to be noise rock, and too on edge to be stoner rock – but their against the grain nature isn’t enough to make the whole album a compelling enough listen when there’s a little too much sameyness at play.
Scribed by: Jamie Grimes