by Mike Avakian
Norway has always been known for producing many great progressive metal acts. And we have another promising young group to add to the list. The latest to appear is the band AVKRVST, pronounced “Awkrust” and they are here to provide us with 49 minutes of sonic glory with their debut album “The Approbation”. The band was formed by two childhood friends Martin Utby and Simon Bergseth, who agreed to be in a band together at the age of 7. Now, 22 years later, their vision is realized with the release of ‘The Approbation’, a concept album about a bleak soul who is left solely with his thoughts, isolated on a cabin deep into the dark forests, far away from civilization.
The Approbation was written and recorded at a secluded cabin in Alvdal (Norway) during a rainy, cold fall and winter. Simon (composer, guitars, bass and vocals) and Martin (composer, drummer and synths) were later joined by Øystein Aadland on bass/keys, Edvard Seim on guitars and Auver Gaaren on keys.
You can hear the obvious influences of bands like Porcupine Tree and Opeth immediately on their first single and main opening track of the album, “The Pale Moon”. The song begins with a big open chord that then leads into staccato hits that bring forth the modern prog staple of intense syncopations and non-stop time signature changes. It then dives into the verse that has a moody vibe and a hauntingly beautiful melody that will put you into a stellar trance. As it progresses, a half time groove leads us to dark and heavy growls from singer, Simon Bergseth, through to the end of the song.
Following that is “Isolation”, which opens up with an intense and fast paced performance. This song is a perfect combination of modern progressive metal riffs, and old school progressive rock synths that keep it grounded. When the song begins to unfold, it goes into a thrash metal jam combined with a screaming keyboard solo that takes the front of the mix.
Later on, comes the second single released, “Arcane Clouds”. It begins in 7/8 with a synth pad that sounds straight out of “Thirteenth Step” by, A Perfect Circle. The bass and drums are now lining up with a powerful and polyrhythmic heartbeat that brings the main guitar riff to life. The verse has a laid back, yet complex vibe with a Mellotron supporting the lead vocals and calming guitar line. Nearing the end of the song, the drums take the main stage, with a drum solo performed behind a unison bass and guitar riff.
The second to last track, “Anodyne”, is the first of two progressive metal epics that we have been waiting for. It begins with a smooth and ethereal synth pad. Following that, we get blindsided by an overdriven B3 organ riff that gets doubled by the rest of the band. As it begins to intensify, the riffs get complicated, meaner, and heavier. After all of the chaos, a delicate acoustic section breaks the tension with a vocal melody that would make Steven Wilson smile from ear to ear. When the song begins to come to an end, the drums begin to fade out to leave the layered vocal harmonies clashing in the most beautiful way.
The closing and title track, “The Approbation”, is a true progressive metal gem and starts with a powerful release as if they have just crossed the finish line. The beautiful sound of the 12 string acoustic guitar fills the airwaves with beautiful movements. This comes to a stop when the band comes in with a heavy dropped tuned riff that makes you nod your head as if you were at a rock show. During this, “Deadwing” influenced distorted vocals come in with nothing but attitude. The mood then changes when the instruments stop and horror movie sound effects glisten while the lo-fi drums are building behind it; then back into the full band hitting hard, with a guitar solo full of harmonies and dissonance. With the tension rising, the performance rises along with still 7 minutes left. As the closing of the album approaches, the song gets more and more epic as the seconds pass by, in the likes of “Octavarium” by Dream Theater. The song and album close out with the beautiful 12 string guitar plucking a beautiful melody, leaving us with a perfect way to end an extremely well thought out, written, and performed progressive rock album.
When it comes to progressive metal or rock, I truly believe that many people who love the genre have different definitions of the word “progressive”, and what it means to them. Some may think odd time signatures, long songs, well versed musicians, etc; and some may think that it’s the ability to carry on an entire story or concept. That being said – “The Approbation” has all of that and more. AVKRVST has really brought a new light to this unique genre and are truly a force to be reckoned with. This impressive debut album proves AVKRVST to be a true contender within the genre.
Released on June 16th, 2023 on InsideOutMusic
2.The Pale Moon 6:15
4.The Great White River 6:30
5.Arcane Clouds 6:05
7.The Approbation 13:37
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