Sometimes progressive gems are found in unlikely locales. Received wisdom holds that Sweden dominates the Scandinavian prog scene given The Flower Kings, Pain Of Salvation, Opeth et al.
But there’s also an intriguing coterie of bands hailing from neighbouring Norway.
Today’s unlikely locale is Bergen on Norway’s windswept west coast. The city is Norway’s second largest, but it’s still a global minnow with a population of only 275,000. Bergen is home to Seven Impale, who alongside countrymen Airbag are at the forefront of a new wave of Norwegian prog. To debunk further the myth that prog is the preserve of middle-aged and elderly musicians, Seven Impale’s oldest member is 25. Four of the band members are students, with only two exposed to the harsh reality of day jobs. According to the band’s founder, vocalist/guitarist Stian Økland, his bandmates’ studies encompass biology, maths and physics, while he is pursuing a music degree.
That diversity is reflected in Seven Impale’s music. Having formed in 2010 after Økland left a thrash metal band, following last year’s digital EP Beginning/Relieve, City Of The Sun is the band’s extraordinary debut album. Their youthful exuberance shines through on five tracks which run an exhilarating stylistic gamut encompassing jazz and modern metal, all underpinned by classic hard rock and prog foundations. “Our music is multi-faceted and changing all the time,” Økland explains. Seven Impale certainly sport a diverse mix of influences, with Økland namechecking Meshuggah and Tool alongside the usual mainstream 70s prog and hard rock suspects.
City… is full of impressive ensemble playing, taking numerous sharp left turns. Another distinguishing feature is a full-time saxophonist, who sits right at the sonic core rather than as a gratuitous embellishment. Unusually for a prog band, they also sport an unchanged line-up. Having started the band purely for pleasure and with no game plan, Seven Impale have clearly morphed beyond that. “We believe in making music 100% from the heart. We wanted to make the music as natural as possible and not force it. Whatever comes, comes.”
Being signed to Karisma Records, Seven Impale feel allied to the burgeoning Norwegian prog movement, with their label’s best-known exponents currently being Airbag. “We’re a bit younger than most of the bands signed to Karisma, but we’re hoping to collaborate and tour.”
In an age where there are plenty of purely studio projects, Økland is clear about Seven Impale’s purpose. “We write music to play it live without extra members.” Thus far, the band have clocked up over 20 shows, principally supporting other bands in Bergen and playing Norwegian festivals. But following a slew of positive reviews both domestically and internationally for City…, they hope soon to graduate to headline shows and playing outside Norway.
“We want to take the band as far as possible. The first goal is to play outside Norway, London in particular. We feel euphoric but once we have some gigs abroad we will feel we have something to prove.”
Stian Økland (vocals, guitars), Fredrik Mekki Widerøe (drums), Benjamin Mekki Widerøe (sax), Tormod Fosso (bass), Erlend Vottvik Olsen (guitar), Håkon Vinje (keyboards).
King Crimson travelling through time to the Norwegian fjords
City Of The Sun is out now via Karisma