Twenty-seventeen seems to be the year for writing pieces on some of my favorite bands of all time. But, unlike Amenra‘s horribly-depressing Mass VI, Vulture IndustriesStranger Times is a touch more chill and much less soul-sucking. And, like Amenra, I’ve been wanting to review Vulture Industries for a long time. The closest I’ve ever come to reviewing these Norwegian avant-garders was Sulphur‘s 2016 black/death release, Omens of Doom. Sulphur and its symphonic black sound, obviously, share no similarities in sound to Vulture Industries, but both bands—at one point—did share many-a-band member. Let this be living proof that dreams do come true. I present to you the 2017 Things You Might Have Missed for Stranger Times.

Borrowing from the likes of Arcturus, Vulture Industries likes the melodic and the avant-garde. The result is that Stranger Times, like the rest of the band’s material, is chill, moody, and accessible. It’s simple grooves and smooth vocals bring a smile to the face of the most-hopeless insomniacs and a smirk to the loneliest of night dwellers. It’s for late night drives home and for midnight walks through frozen city parks. In essence, it’s music for the pre-dawn street sweepers. It’s peace in peace-less times and it’s an escape when you need it the most.

And it all begins and, subsequently, ends with “Tales of Woe” and “Midnight Draws Near.” Both with their Reign of Light-era Samael vocals—the former smattering the surface with vocal touches this side of The Melvins‘ (A) Senile Animal. But, when the melodic choruses of the two come to the front, there’s no doubt that this is Vulture Industries. These melodic qualities bleed through the Tom Waits-tinged “As the World Burns” and the Nick Cave-embossed “My Body, My Blood” until that rich maroon drips from the bottom of your copy of the tight-rope cover art. The heaviest bleeders have to be “Strangers,” “The Beacon,” “Something Vile,” and “Screaming Reflections.” These moody numbers unleash everything from soaring Garm-like vocals, horns, synths, and/or emphasized drum hits to better push that sly dagger deep into your chest.

That said, Stranger Times is long ways from the band’s classic The Dystopia Journals and The Malefactor’s Bloody Register. But its simplicity and nakedness give it an accessibility and charm its predecessor’s lack. Not to say that its predecessors lack anything—being that the debut is still my favorite of the band’s catalog. But, as far as newer releases go, Stranger Times is definitely a step up from 2013’s The Tower. Tracks like “Tales of Woe,” “Stranger,” and “Screaming Reflections” are so full of easy-to-feel and easy-to-touch emotion that I completely lose myself in them every time I spin the record. As with most of the band’s material, this leaves me both happy and down in the dumps.

The harsh vox of The Dystopia Journals and the punchy licks of The Tower may be absent on Stranger Times, but the stripped-down character of the disc makes for a pleasant addition to the band’s discography. It’s full, it’s smooth, and it’s addictive. What we have here is an easy-listening album and one of Grier‘s most-listened-to records of 2017.

Tracks to check out: “Tales of Woe,” “Stranger,” and “Screaming Reflections”