By Kyle Harcott
Imagine, if you will – a raw distillation of the best of the Amphetamine Reptile catalogue in its heyday, veering past the outskirts of black metal territory, and fronted by Supergrover, if he had a severe antisocial personality disorder coupled with a propensity to sing through ground-down teeth, in phlegm-clearing snarls, growls and shrieks. Congratulations, you’ve just come close to conjuring up Oslo’s startlingly visionary Årabrot and the sound of their latest blood offering, Revenge.
There’s a palpable malevolence to the music contained herein, far more so than 2009’s incredible The Brother Seed. While that album lacked nothing in the way of AmRep-y bash-and-drudgeon, it didn’t automatically evoke the feeling of bile-dredged hate that wafts off Revenge in visible, wavy stink-lines. Truthfully, held up side-by-side with Revenge, The Brother Seed actually seems downright manic at times. There’ll be none of that here – when the onslaught of seething clatter isn’t repeatedly lambasting your skull into the concrete floor, you’re simply waiting around for the next time it happens. Yes, there’s a strong sense of foreboding permeating the quieter parts of the album. But even in those brief moments when Revenge lapses into pre-nightmare ‘melody’ and you think you are in for a few moments’ safe respite, all of a sudden along comes a terribly unsettling sample of Jeffrey Dahmer, pontificating on his compulsions to kill and cannibalize, over top of the music (“The Pilgrimage”). It’s so eerie and creepy and suffocating, you’ll be thankful for the out-in-the-open flagellation you get from followup “End of First Chant: II”.
And while the clotted guitar sound and those claustrophobic drums go a long way toward generating that sinister, keep-checking-over-your-shoulder vibe throughout the album, it’s once again the extraordinary voice of Kjetil Nernes that propels this disc into legendary territory. As is his signature, he grinds out every breath and syllable as if it may be his last – here on Revenge, it’s pretty clear that if it’s going to be his last breath, he most certainly intends to spend it with his fingers firmly gripped around someone else’s throat. Case in point: The chants of “Die!” opening ‘Murder’ do not sound forced or put on; the man clearly sounds as though he wants to do someone serious harm. “The Wretched Child”, a firmly-raised middle finger of a horror song, finds Kjetil giving a righteous dose of the old verbal GBH to everything in his path. There’s also the heinous “Do not trust me….” rap that KN lays into, two minutes into ‘The Primrose Path’ that starts out as an admonition, devolves into a warning, then outright collapses into a raging, foaming, you-fucking-asked-for-it-didn’t-ya-mate, teeth-and-claws attack.
This is music for punching things to. A soundtrack for using one’s forehead as a blunt-force trauma weapon. Theme music for inexplicably waking up one morning with voluntary Tourette’s Syndrome and telling the entire world to –rightfully- get fucked. Truly, this is REVENGE music, and it’s Årabrot’s finest work so far.