Chain Wallet - No Ritual - - Soundblab

Chain Wallet - No Ritual

by Howard Scott Rating:9 Release Date:2019-02-15
Chain Wallet - No Ritual
Chain Wallet - No Ritual

The Norwegian town of Bergen is on the country’s west coast. It rains a lot there, and it isn’t very warm very often. Its kind of like the Seattle of Norway. So it stands to reason that if you are an up and coming band from this region, your style could easily be morose, sullen and dreary sounding. Fortunately for us all, Bergen’s own Chain Wallet are here with their second full-length recording, “No Ritual” and it defies the melancholy tones it so easily could have adopted. Instead, we get upbeat dream pop that might not always carry the cheeriest of messages but is fully dominated by otherworldly melodies that can’t help but induce a smile. 

Frode Boris Bakken is the synth maestro for the trio and his work is impossible to ignore. It has an eighties feel to it, but it takes its roots from the best of that era. Think Depeche Mode, Echo and the Bunnymen, and even The Church, and forget that bands like ELP and Yes sometimes mangled electronica. Nothing on this record gets mangled.

Stian Iversen also does yeoman duty on the disc by handling most of the guitar work, all of the bass lines and lead vocals. Christian Line Annesen also plays guitar to make up the base of the usual three-piece ensemble. On “No Ritual”, Marius Erster Bergensen is the percussionist extraordinaire joining in, while Matias Tellez contributes his synth and guitar talents. Speaking of talents, Chiara Victoria Cavallari of “FOAMMM” fame is a presence here as well, adding her unique vocal work to the project. 

Cavallari is prominent on “Closer” and it makes for an enchanting tune. The offsetting female vocal gives the song a different flavor than other cuts, and the majestic synth and guitar work just enhance the total package. Its a fine piece of composition, as are all 10 songs offered.

“Ride” has been released as a pre-album single, and its easy to tell why. Triumphant surf guitar licks blend with multitrack vocals and avalanches of synth euphoria to create a modern-day hymn to the open road. “I wanna ride / to where the secrets die” bellows Iversen, and we have no trouble believing he wants to do just that. 

Another highlight is “Lost Somewhere”. All the parts add up to a magnificent sum, as all musicians are in peak form and the lead vocal tells a story of unsettling tumult. The music really belies the lyric, as is commonplace on the album. It sounds so good, yet seems to hurt so bad. 

A Depeche Mode reminiscent heavy bass line backs a shadowy vocal on “Final Testament”, and suddenly its thirty years ago. This stuff was great way back when, and it is good to hear someone doing it justice now. We can’t call it New Wave anymore, but that doesn’t make it any less tasty. 

“What Everybody Else Could Find” winds up the album’s first half with more dreamy deliciousness highlighted by Bergensen’s outstanding drum work. Next comes a one minute and forty-six-second instrumental intermission, “Liminality”. The word is described as the space between the conscious and unconscious mind and the tune does a fine job of slicing up the overall recording with a brief but notable display of musical prowess. 

The last four tunes get a bit darker lyrically, but the music stays on the other side of the fence. Title tune “No Ritual” uses Bakken’s best synth work over top-shelf guitar and drumming to bring forth an amalgam of sound that is stunning. The album is worth the price of admission for this tune alone. “Knowing Eyes” adopts a more rock attitude. While Iversen is singing about worlds dying and secret melodies, the sonic symphony behind him is carrying us to a higher place. 

The DM influence once again seeps out of “World I Used To Call Mine” and then “Inner Space” gives us a perfect send-off with lyrics describing uninviting environs to a pounding ethereal dreamscape of subliminal grandeur. I must admit the songwriting efforts of adding the most joyous sounding music to less than cheerful lyrics is somewhat mystifying to me, but it is impossible to criticize the finished product. 

In the press stuff sent out before release, the band calls “No Ritual” a “Post Apocalyptic Dive” into the millennial mind. All I can say is that if the post-apocalypse sounds like this, bring it on. Gathering and foraging to Chain Wallet’s auditory bliss doesn’t sound like a bad situation!

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