Although best-known for its symphonic prog acts, there is a small but resilient scene for the more experimental side of Scandinavian prog as well. Panzerpappa are Norway’s foremost exponent of this scene, taking some of their cues from the likes of Univers Zero, Samla Mammas Manna and Frank Zappa. Their latest album, Astromalist, was released in 2012 on Norway’s influential Rune Grammofon label and received great reviews.
Tonight is a particularly special night for Panzerpappa as it’s a home-town show for the band’s primus motor, drummer Trond Gjellum, and you can sense their joy and excitement from the moment they appear on the stage.
It all starts with the angular saxophone of Steinar Børve, blending with guitar feedback and cymbal splashes, all of which are telltale signs of audience favourite Korallrevens Klagesang II. The sound is meaty, Gjellum’s drums are punchy, and there’s even a wind synth solo.
Ugler i Moseboka then moves effortlessly through symphonic guitar histrionics, tight ensemble playing and lyrical jazz as another early highlight. Guitarist Jarle Storløkken shines during the solos, combining jazz elegance with rockist expression.
Bati La Takton! is a fun romp through some Canterbury-esque landscapes, opening with quirky glockenspiel but soon exploding with surprising energy. Drummer Gjellum plays with deftness and groove, while the whole band provide melodic soloing and thematic development, often reminiscent of National Health.
However, there’s no doubt that the most sensational moment of the concert comes when a new song, Pestrottedans, is debuted. Initial impressions suggest that this could well be the best song the band have written to date. The track has a Middle-Eastern tinge to the tonality, and bouncy, Balkanesque rhythms that settle into a more pastoral mode before a rousing and rocking section that takes the band into entirely new waters.
Panzerpappa are really hitting their stride now. On Frenetisk Frenologi (For Nybegynnere), saxophonist Børve delivers a particularly sinewy solo before the band shift gears again, launching into the evocatively titled Satam, which is simply infernal. Ferociously dissonant bursts of melody and thundering percussion rumble through this track, which ends in guitar chords so diabolical they would have scared even Christian Vander.
There are two encores to finish the set – a lyrical piece for two guitars and sax, and the energetic Spådom.
Musically, this band are clearly going from strength to strength, and based on tonight’s performance, the signs for their upcoming new album are very promising indeed.