Black Stabat Mater
Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen and her trio comprised of rhythm section Ivar Joe Bjornstad (drums) and Ellen Brekken (bass) have forged an awe-inspiring amalgam of European/Scandinavian jazz and Hendrix-inspired proto-metal; here on the band’s latest, a 33-minute deluge of guitar-led instrumentals Mollestad is ominous in her role, the guitar pulsing and surging on the opening Approachin/On Arrival. At nearly quarter of an hour it is essentially the first side of the album, the first half. And the guitar ducks and dives and weaves in and around a supple, pliable rhythm section; chops and dynamics from this band are the key – and mighty impressive.
They go a bit prog on In The Court of The Trolls, its title an obvious nod to King Crimson and to a roller-coaster run of ride cymbal, proud snare and rumbling bass Hedvig layers a raunchy, raucous riff that’s almost constantly coiling in on itself, hugely propulsive and satisfying across the ten-minute ride time.
For the quieter tune, 40, its to mallets on the cymbals and a post-rock riff of nimble picking as Hedvig creates a Slint-like dance, Brekken’s bass bubbling away behind.
For the final piece, the shortest track here – just four and a half minutes – it’s the rhythm section that ushers in a creeping groove, big drums arrive as Hedvig rides the volume knob and then unleashes. It’s J Mascis-like splatter-paint guitar, sprayed across the tune in the way of a bedsit jam-band. It builds and builds, a real sonic wail.
This album is huge – even in its short running time. The ferocity on display, particularly on the bookending tracks, is skin-tingling; the feel here is enormous. And to sustain an album of lead guitar rock instrumentals – both harking back to the psychedelic 60s and plunging on in towards contemporary post-rock/ambient metal ideals is no mean feat. The interplay – the intuitive grasp of this trio – is spellbinding.