Well, Område have done it again. Two years ago, I opened their Edari review talking about the marriage of an album to its artwork. What seems simplistic turns out to quite difficult. Finding the right artist and the right piece of art to match an album’s character is like food presentation. For instance, if not careful, you’ll turn your entire family against your amazing chili dogs. I thought the artwork of Område‘s debut was the perfect match to its sound, but Nåde takes the cake (or, in this case, a foot-long chili coney). Though darker and more apocalyptic than its predecessor, Nåde‘s own cover art represents it better than anything else chiseled, penned, or painted for it. But, it won’t be clear on the first spin. Nåde is a dish best tasted more than once. It’s a dish as pleasing to the taste buds as it is to the eyes. But you’ll need to keep trying it. Because it’s odd. Very odd. With each taste, you’ll think you’re closer to understanding it, but it’s hopeless. Somehow, it remains consistent, while evolving with every bite. Just like the chef that crafted it, Nåde is one of a kind.
On the surface, Område has not changed much since Edari. But, at the same time, Nåde is no Edari. All those layers of electronica, trip-hop, and avante-garde remain, but Nåde uses them differently. For one, there is no easing into the Område sound as there was with Edari. “Malum” opens Nåde with a healthy serving of techno atmospheres and effect-buried cleans—a la Manes and Ulver. And just to be sure you’re ready for what’s coming, the song fills your ears with everything the album has to offer: strings, trumpets, impressive bass leads, and lush piano. For six minutes, it sweeps through trip-hoppy sampling, cowers in Pink Floyd-esque weirdness, and finally concludes with those haunting ivories. I know, it’s a lot to take in right away. But hold onto your butts.
“Malum” ain’t nearly as stacked as “The Same for the Worst.” This is, perhaps, the most impressive and insane song the band has ever written. It opens like a film noir, with our insomnia-suffering private investigator alternating between whiskey shots and interrogations in the red-light district. The thumping bass, the soaring saxophone, and the Garm-like cleans transport you into a land few explore and fewer still understand. In the back-half, female whispers cover up the Ulver cleans as the piano sets a new pace. And when the tension cracks, the sax lets loose as the song erupts into an industrial groove. It’s a mindfucking journey that pounds and soothes, never letting up its nearly eight-minute length.
But, closer “Falaich” is the ultimate epic of the record, like the soundtrack to an biblical battle. Opening with Ava Inferi guitar work, this one builds and builds; using piano, orchestration, and hypnotic whistling to set its tone. Like “Styrking Leið,” this one expands to the point of bursting. While the tension in “Styrking Leið” finally snaps at its climactic conclusion, “Falaich” pops much sooner. But, this doesn’t mean “Falaich” lays back and flatlines. Instead, it brings everything to the front as the vocals crescendo and the bass drum unleashes a nonstop barrage of power. When the day comes for burning bodies to descend from the heavens, this song will be playing1.
But Nåde is not all epic, lengthy pieces. “XII” and “Baldar Jainko” are a couple examples of more “reasonable” tracks. OK, so maybe just “XII.” “Baldar” is just fucking weird. Delivering a strange combination of distant screams, techno groove, wild bass leads, and reverberating chapel chants, “Baldar Jainko” will have you WTF-ing everything you knew about music. “Enter,” on the other hand, is a simple ditty with a trip-hoppy pace and catchy Kurt Cobain-like vocal arrangements that eventually break down and turn sinister. Then the clarinet-charged “Hänelle” arrives—standing out above the rest for its accessible and addictive chorus.
In the end, Nåde is another platter of Område metal/non-metal/something-metal. Though different in many ways to the debut, it’s equally effective. Also equal is the outstanding production. Not only will it take many listens to absorb the band’s odd sound, but you’ll need repeat spins to explore every dynamic nook and cranny. Område ain’t for everybody and their approach won’t be predictable for those that need verse-chorus structure. But, if you’re feeling as adventurous as pyromaniac skydivers, strap yourself into a tiny, white-walled room, pop the cork on some good shit, and let this one ravage your mind.