Three years ago the headline of my progVisions review of “Syndenes Magi”, the sixth album of the Norwegian band Arabs In Aspic, was ... an authentic sound that is rooted in the seventies. That album was released on the Apollon label. However the new album “Madness and Magic” is released on Karisma Records. The second thing I noticed was that on this album the band uses English instead of Norwegian lyrics. In that same review I told you that in my opinion adding Norwegian vocals (with their Folklore elements) to that mixture of dark rock of the seventies distinguishes the band with a unique sound and own style. So maybe the band sacrifices some of its originality. But on the other hand with this decision the band increases the comprehensibility of their lyrics and lyrical themes.
Jostein Smeby - guitars, vocals; Stig Jorgensen - organs, vocals; Erik Paulsen - bass, vocals; Eskil Nyhus - drums, cymbals; Alessandro G. Elide - percussion, gongs
With “Madness and Magic” the band builds on where they left on “Syndenes Magi”, showcasing the acoustic side of the band more without losing any of their heaviness. This is evident in the fact that “Madness and Magic” is their first album written and recorded with two unique drummers.
The lyrical themes reflect on how easily both children and adults are affected in the digital age, but also how helpless we are when we have to put our lives in the hands of specialists. The message of “Madness and Magic” is up to the listener to decide. Because, according the band, the listeners are capable of thinking for themselves.
The album starts with the track “I Vow to Thee, My Screen”. The opening of this slow track has beautiful melodies and you will notice the impact of the two percussionists. There is a lot of percussion, acoustic guitars, multi-voiced vocals and lovely synth melodies. Great opener that is followed by the suite “Lullaby for Modern Kids” which is divided into two parts. In the first part the band sometimes goes full throttle with complex instrumental parts and humoresque vocals that reminds me of the work of the late Frank Zappa. All this combined with beautiful melodies and lovely keyboard strings. Part two opens with acoustic guitars, keyboard strings and flute. Love the funny vocal parts of the “I shoot you dead ... right to the head” section which is presented with lovely and uplifting melodies. That contrast gives a humorous effect. This is followed by “High-Tech Parent”. Also this one sounds like a happy tune ... but you have to listen to the lyrics closely. I now understand the decision to sing in the English language better. The title track “Madness and Madness” has delicate guitar work and melodic keyboard strings and flutes. In overall this track has an acoustic atmosphere but towards the end the music becomes more powerful with nice keyboard parts. The vocal parts are full of beautiful melodies. The latter applies to the entire album. The album closes with the long track “Heaven in Your Eye”. With almost 17 minutes this is the long epic of the album. We can enjoy great organ, synth and guitar parts and the darkness slowly creeps in. But most of the time the music keeps a kind of lightness. Maybe this is also due to all the percussion. There are some Van Der Graaf influences in the music. For me this epic song is absolutely the highlight of this fine album.