Following the demise of respected Norwegian stoner doom outfit Tombstones, founding member Ole Christian Helstad was reborn, alongside Markus Støle (drums) and guitarist Ole Ulvik Rokseth (members who joined for the last days of the band) in the Oslo-based sludge doom trio SÂVER (a word that has origins in Norwegian meaning to be sleeping).
Channelling an emotional blend of heavy post-metal noise that owes a debt to the likes of Neurosis, the band made their debut in 2019 with the discordant They Came With Sunlight after finding a home on the mecca for far-reaching aesthetics and challenging philosophical musical approaches that is The Ocean Collective’s Pelagic Records.
That record was a well-received, solid affair from the powerful trio filled with abstract rhythms, atmospheric dips and swells that demonstrated their tight-knit chemistry, tipping a hat to the Oakland band’s heft and far-reaching visions and even drawing comparisons to Yob in their haunting melodic mystical compositions.
The last few years have seen them in a collaborative phase, first with Belgium post-metal philosophers Psychonaut for the two-track Emerald in 2021 and then with fellow Norwegian, folk-pop singer-songwriter Anne Lise Frøkedal on 2022’s Split EP, this year finally sees their sophomore full-length greatly benefitting from those experiences.
From Ember And Rust is a far more mature and considered release that is informed by the dystopian, haunting feel that pervades classic sci-fi soundtracks and has seemingly come a step closer to reality after the last few years, as well as the resilience and self-assessment that has been necessary to make it through the Pandemic era.
The opening track, Formless, picks up on their distinctive sound, the driving synth-backed sound courtesy of Rokseth, who also handles guitars, clashes with the drums and smashes up against Helstad’s bass (with whom he shares vocals duties). The sound shifts back and forth in a claustrophobic mix of hypnotic brutality and paranoia thick with down-tuned sludge riffs that lurch and bend, whilst the vocals punctuate the savage pounding with raw screams of discontent. Part Neurosis hardcore edged nightmare and part unsettling Cult of Luna style expansiveness the track is a tumultuous, but emphatic statement.
I, Evaporate continues with the heavy, slow crawl. The vocals sit deep in the mix and the moments they emerge alone, or in the midst of moody downbeat passages, are more striking in tonal shift from heavy onslaught to haunting sci-fi soundscape. The grimy, lingering bass keeps the track anchored as it builds back up to the raging end.
The choral hum of Eliminate Distance takes a while to get started, but stabs in with malevolent force. The nagging, repetitive riffing explodes into another gear with the raging vocals as SÂVER thrashes and writhes with violent intent. Never settling on one passage for long, they flex with tempo changes and dynamics, dropping out only to return and attempt to bludgeon the listener into submission.
With From Ember And Rust, the Oslo three-piece look to make a sound that defies their numbers and succeed in a fashion that seems effortless…
The title track, shortened to Ember & Rust, is a tense affair that is underpinned by the cavernous-sounding bass that allows the guitars and synth to overlay and chart an urgent-sounding journey that shows the band’s progression from their debut. Surprisingly it breaks out into a melodic, indie, light-sounding section with clean vocals that releases the tension briefly before they return to their savage nature. It might be my favourite track on the album and somehow reminds me of Joy Division jamming with SÂVER’s label mates Herod.
Primal One vies with the following track, The Object, for the longest-running entry and once again snakes from elongated ringing and stripped-down moments to huge walls of riffs. The vocals swing back and forth from harsh to dream-like chanting whilst the insistent drum beat powers the track on. This seemingly unrelenting vortex of noise is infused with innovation and variation that ranges from soothing release to anvil-heavy crunch.
The latter track sees the band recycle previous themes as a launchpad to expand on their conceptual ideas, using them to push their artistry ever onwards. Seemingly switching from smooth to djent-style chugging, the highlight is the discombobulating solo that has you reeling even before the knock-out punch of the ending.
Finally, the synth/drone heavy All In Disarray could be described as a typical post-metal album closer. Epic feeling in scale and running through every aspect that SÂVER have thrown at you over the previous tracks, this last entry is a dense, chilling and pummelling affair that grinds and hammers, showing that the band won’t go quietly.
With From Ember And Rust, the Oslo three-piece look to make a sound that defies their numbers and succeed in a fashion that seems effortless. There has been much talk in their PR material about organic progression and the creation of anticipation within their sound, and fans who turned in to their previous works will be able to spot the difference. They Came With Sunlight was a solid affair that didn’t necessarily offer anything to redefine the post-metal genre, but the latest album looks to take that foundation and expand upon it, using the insights gained with their esoteric collaborations, then twist and challenge themselves to create a distinct and unique experience.
I earlier referenced their Pelagic Records brethren Herod, who released their spectacular Iconoclast album this year. In that review, I described it as pushing to be the cutting edge of modern, forward-thinking metal. With this latest release, SÂVER boldly pick up that thrown down gauntlet and look to give anyone a fight on those terms.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden