The Crucible reviews

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    Punj Lizard

      Sounds from the Dark Side

      Finally it’s time to say something about “Motorpsychodelia”. So prog nerds and metalheads, unite.

      I reckon that SftDS readers must have heard about Motorpsycho by now. If you haven’t, same on you! The Norwegian prog-psych rockers have been around since 1989 and released more than 20 full albums, a dozen EP’s and a handful of live albums. Bent Sæther and his boys still go strong everywhere they go. The nice thing about Motorpsycho is that you never know what you’re going to get. Indie rock, alternative metal, jazz, sympho or noise, they’ve done it al.

      Timothy’s Monster (1995), Let Them Eat Cake (2000), Barracuda (2001), the first two volumes of the Roadwork live series and especially In The Fishtank 10 (2003) with Jaga Jazzist Horns belong to my personal highlights. Hereafter I lost track of the band in the mid-2000s only to briefly pick them up again in 2012 with The Death Defying Unicorn on which Norwegian jazz legend Ståle Storløkken plays a major part. Two years Motorpsycho got my full attention again after they released the versatile double album The Tower. This album never got a proper review here (my bad) so let’s just say the recently released The Crucible is our second chance to say some words about this monumental band.

      The Tower was a return to form for Motorpsycho. Under influence of a new drummer, Tomas Järmyr, the band once again explored their more diverse alternative rock roots without forgetting the more proggy experiment in the second part. Where The Tower ends The Crucible starts. With 3 lengthy tracks Sæther et al takes us deeper into the world of 70s progressive rock.

      ‘Psychotzar’ is the hinge between both albums. With a gong, strong riffs and various rootsy guitar solos this track extents the atmosphere from The Tower onto this new record. Yet, after about 3 minutes tension builds due to Järmyr’s heavier drumming and Sæther’s meandering vocals. This eventually leads to a compelling sounding track that at some points even is a bit bombastic like Led Zeppelin. As expected Motorpsycho wouldn’t be Motorpsycho if they played out this track in linear fashion. The sting of ‘Psychotzar’ is its tail. Here a throat gripping horror-like guitar riff serves as a dark ending.

      ‘Lux Aeterna’s’ is an ode to Bent Sæther mother who died 6 months ago. In contrast to ‘Psychotzar’ the lead in brings some air in the first minutes, although in a sorrowful manner. Some light guitar play, horns and keyboard intertwine with Sæther’s singing here, thus accentuating the sad beginning. Under pressure of further surging horns the song slowly progresses into a apotheosis that is suddenly interrupted by a piano which is quickly followed by an intoxicating whirlwind of jazzrock. After the restless midsection Sæther intervenes and eventually gives room to a cinematic saxophone solo that leads in a placid fade out.

      With 20 minutes on the clock the title track makes up half of the album when it comes to playing time. The melodious beginning directly reminds of prog acts of old like King Crimson and Yes. Again Järmyr shows he’s an asset to the lineup by showcasing various impressive drum variations during the first few minutes. The band changes gear once more. This time by means of a light Pink Floyd-ish guitar interlude. Hereafter Sæther takes over with a few clear verses and as guitars riffs grow heavier the build up starts again. Now the band slaps us around with an unwavering industrial-strength like midsection full of noise. Just like on ‘Lux Aeterna’ the contrast is huge only this time it’s gloomier. Also the repetitiveness makes it the most powerful track on the album. After a few short tempo changes Motorpsycho combines the melodious opening with harsher structures of the track, this time leaving aside the noise we heard on the midsection. In the end I can only conclude that ‘The Crucible’ sets out like classic a progrock poem with a wonderful feeling for detail and structuring.

      You could say The Crucible is a worthy ending for The Tower. Yet The Crucible also is strong enough the carry the weight of being a full album on its own. For this you have to understand it as progrock album without a predominant catchy side. Naturally Motorpsycho doesn’t deliver progrock just the fit the genre. The Crucible is Motorpsycho’s statement telling us that they will keep on pushing forward the standards they set for themselves thirty years ago by incorporating their own unique twists. Consequently Motorpsycho’s work still is and will be relevant factor to look out for.

      Kid A

        The band thanks for the great reception of the album on Instagram:

        Thank You All for the great response to The Crucible!

        Fans, friends and critics alike – you have all showered your love upon this preposterous rock hallucination, and in doing so yet again given us carte blanche to go even further next time. Thanks for the understanding, the trust, and for bestowing the role of ‘music makers and dreamers of dreams’ on us. It is not a burden borne lightly, but one we carry with the deepest reverence and treat with the greatest pride and respect.

        thank you, love to all, rock on! 🙏🏻 ❤️🤘🏻

        @tomasjarmyr @onkelfuzzbass #snah #motorpsycho #thecrucible #werocksoyoudonthaveto #rock #hardrock #stonerrock #metal #jazz #jazzrock #prog #punk #ra..not,notreallyrap,sorry —

        thank you #håkongullvåg @thiswaydesign #deathprod @theschepards @ketilnico @lacktr #tos @mortenfagervik @marsvin @jahawata @runegrammofon @stickmanrecords @stickfrau #makeloudnotwar


          Well guys I just listened a few times and I'm really sad about the pain I feel if I got Bents words right… I'mean if you listen to it really ….. Lux Aterna…: We die alone..!!! It ends today..!! 8O 8O8O Sounds like the guys were finally not afraid to die for the last power they shared over whatever medium you listened too… I'm really sad about the true words I could hear ♥.

          It sounds like the guys were really in trouble and they wanted to make it Allright for us all… Snafu… Roll on wherever you will be… I wished you could have been there for me a last time just like always perfect in time before you're life ends… Hope to meet you in Oktober in cologne if you don't lose your heart about all this rock… Space on and spaced out northern stars… We will meet again one day… :STG: :smoke: Soul mates never die.


          4/5 on Allmusic:

          When Norway's Motorpsycho released the sprawling double-length The Tower in 2017, it was a major event. Recorded at Rancho de Luna studios in Joshua Tree with new drummer Tomas Järmyr, it swerved through progressive rock, psych, and vanguard metal riffage. By the accounts of most fans and critics, it was among the most ambitious and successful recordings in Motorpsycho's three-decade career. After a single listen, it's obvious that The Crucible, co-produced by Andrew Scheps and Deathprod, is a sequel: it begins where the last offering ended, but contains its own unique flavor and aesthetic. While only half its predecessor's length, the album is denser and more focused in all areas. Recorded in Wales and several studios in Norway — Deathprod's Audio Virus Lab among them — its three extended tracks range between eight-and-a-half and 20 minutes. Two cuts here — "Lux Aeterna" and the title track — are actually multi-part suites cutting across multiple genres, time signatures, keys, dynamics, and textures. The most prominent references in the music here are Black Sabbath, King Crimson (especially with the abundant use of Mellotrons), and Yes, with abundant nods elsewhere. Motorpsycho use these references not for the sake of cleverness but to frame new compositional architectures and musical structures. These guys aren't motivated by commercial success — they could care less if punters like it or not — they set their own rules. Opener "Psychotzar" is closest to classic "psycho rock." Its nasty bass and guitar riffs recall Sabbath and it's drenched in stoner rock, complete with Hans Magnus Ryan's two squalling guitar solos. After the second one, it downshifts into a doomy, opaque power ballad with Bent Sæther and Ryan sharing harmony vocals until it all falls into a drone. "Lux Aeterna" is the most beautiful track here. Over ten-minutes long, its labyrinthine construction is introduced by acoustic guitars, Mellotron, and vocals that recall CSN (Susanna Wallumrød guests in the three-part harmony) before a filthy overcharged bassline, crashing, rolling drums, punched-up Mellotrons, and Lars Horntveth's reeds enter regally, opening the entire tune up into a Crimson-esque jam that wouldn't have been out of place on In the Wake of Poseidon. It changes shape again for chaotic, deep prog, improvisation, and psychedelia before building to a sublime, wonderfully assonant conclusion. In many ways, the 20-minute title piece feels like a suite that bridges the previous two numbers as it contains elements of both, though it goes beyond either in reach and expression. During this long journey, Motorpsycho quotes from Crimson's "Larks Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 2," and "Red" approaches Yes' Tales from Topographic Oceans and Gentle Giant's Octopus, but it also moves through noise rock, stoner metal, European free jazz, Thin Lizzy, late Beatles, and more. It constantly changes shape and dynamic, electric and acoustic, as it moves to an opaque horizon. Easily as satisfying as The Tower, The Crucible builds on its predecessor's achievement with brilliant composition, inspired performance, and consummate musicianship. It is an excellent example of how to mine rock's past in order to discover its future.

          And, of course, for all the talk of The Tower, Allmusic doesn't actually have a review up for it. :D

          Punj Lizard

            From Roger Trenwith at The Progressive Aspect

            Album ReviewsMotorpsycho – The Crucible Published on 4th March 2019

            Motorpsycho – The Crucible

            Article by: Roger Trenwith

            Motorpsycho are now 30 years and 22 albums (excluding live albums and sundry collaborations) into their multi-faceted existence. As you would expect from such seasoned veterans, everything they release exudes an easy confidence, but perhaps more unexpectedly they still manage to surprise. This band never release the same album twice, and although there is a thematic link to last year’s sprawling operatic opus The Tower, we soon realise that we are entering the gaping maw of a new and distinctive prog rock monster, going by the name of The Crucible.

            Psychotzar opens proceedings with a fist fight between Yes at their most energised and Black Sabbath. Neither seems to be getting the upper hand so they call it quits, snort a pile of spacedust and let the music do the talking. The riff is quite relentless over which some killer lead lines fly around like shards of white-hot sunspit. It’s getting quite warm in here.

            Musing on mortality and our place in the grand scheme of things, as is the wont of anyone over 50, sets the tone as our Nordic warriors call out from the lyrics of the satisfyingly cosmic Lux Aeterna. It is a song that lulls the listener into a sense of false cosiness, when out of nowhere, just over halfway into its eleven minutes a thoroughly barking guitar solo knocks you off your feet at 120 mph, sounding uncannily like a scuzzy outtake from Grace For Drowning. If Mr Wilson was wielding a chain in a Viking biker gang from Mars, he might sound like this. Soon, Mellotrons struggle manfully and eventually succeed in stamping the melody back on this bucking bronco of a tune, as guitars froth and strain at the leash.

            There are only three tracks on this album, at nine, eleven, and a staggering twenty one minutes respectively. The Prog Button has been pushed, and I noted a couple of cheeky references nicked from the Mighty Crim along the way, as well as the other references I mentioned, but this remains a trip on the travel-worn but reliable and instantly recognisable Motorpsycho mothership. There is weirdness aplenty in the mid-section of the lumbering propulsive beast of a title track, a monster that lays waste to entire galaxies as it careens about the universe. There is no let up in the energy these wily old creatures shoot at you through the speakers, the guitar fury of Snah driven by the thunderous rhythm section of Bent and Tomas exuding the toughness of an experienced prizefighter. Somehow, you can’t ever imagine this band touring 45 year-old albums on cruise ships, or anywhere else for that matter, for I suspect they will always be looking forwards.

            Will they win new fans with this fine slab of sound called The Crucible? Maybe, maybe not, but frankly I doubt they care, such is the self-contained nature of this Norwegian lumbertruck of a band. If you wish your favourite ancient prog band still had the balls and inspiration to make relevant new music, or that modern prog was a bit… dirtier, then you’ll love this, is all I’m saying.



              “this Norwegian lumbertruck of a band”


              Punj Lizard

                David Fricke in Rolling Stone

                Here are three of the best albums of 2019 so far. Two of them are surprising and heartening resurrections by American bands who deserved better in their first lifetimes but haven’t given up. The third is bold prog-rock violence from Norway by a band with nearly three decades of mayhem in their discography but is still too much of a secret in this country. May the silence end here.

                Motorpsycho, The Crucible (Rune Grammofon)

                A single disc of only three tracks, one of which swallows the equivalent of an entire album side, the latest album by this long-mutating Norwegian band answers the question no one else has been brave enough to ask so far: What if Metallica, the 1972 Genesis and Crosby, Stills & Nash united to make their combined answer to Yes’ Close to the Edge? Originally forged in Nineties hardcore metal, Motorpsycho have pursued a more exciting and luminous line in heavy progressive rock — streaked with psychedelia, lined with Arctic-California harmonizing — for more than a decade. On The Crucible, Hans Magnus Ryan (voice, keys, guitar), Bent Saether (voice, bass, keys, lyrics) and their latest drummer Tomas Järmyr bind the double-album reach of 2017’s The Tower into a tighter sequence of hymns and blowouts, a focused composition and hard-turn theater of guitar-mountain themes, acid-choir interludes and Mellotron glaze that makes even the 21-minute title track feel an epic in your pocket — taut, full and to the point.


                  Mojo #305 April 2019



                    Shindig #90 2019



                      This guy likes it, and prefers it to The Tower. He makes some valid points. For reference, his favourite MP track is Gullible's Travels, and favourite album TDDU, so fair play.


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