By: Aidan Clucas
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Released on September 16, 2016 via Karisma Records
Seven Impale’s debut album, City of the Sun, was received well by the prog community worldwide, ranked as the 7th best prog album of 2014 by ProgArchives.com. So well that in 2016 the Norwegian band rekindled their relationship with producer Iver Sandøy to record their second album, Contrapasso. They decided to expand and experiment upon the formula they had discovered on their debut album, without losing their youthful vigour and tenacity. Whilst they profess that no band has ventured into this territory before, it is clear to label some influences, which they also publicise, like King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator, Frank Zappa, and Jaga Jazzist.
Contrapasso is comprised of nine songs, most of them totalling over seven minutes in length, a staple for any jazz influenced progressive rock band. ‘Heresy’ is a great example of how Seven Impale induce pop elements, which also making ties to In Absentia era Porcupine Tree (although these were similarly seen in the opener, ‘Lemma’). The influence of late-1960s and 1970s progressive rock are evident, mostly in the union between the guitars, saxophone and keyboards. ‘Helix’ is a much slower song and spends its nine minutes, gradually building up before a manic, screaming crescendo. Seven Impale can definitely sound like they were from that earlier time, but there are subtler elements of modern influences, and evolution, such as in ‘Languor’, which is notably heavier than its predecessors.
The band are very talented in their instrumental passages, and it isn’t just their construction of passages, but the jamming between the instruments, seemingly improvised, that is the interesting talent. They fit in well within the concept of the song, and like true jazz greats, the band manage to swing the improvisation around into a well-constructed verse section near seamlessly. As evidenced in ‘Serpentstone’, they can convey gradually built, assured chaos before their experimentation truly envelops themselves in the album closer ‘Phoenix’.
This album may be a struggle to some, but anyone with a penchant for experimental, and progressive, rock music, or jazz, can appreciate what Seven Impale are doing here. Whilst one may struggle to find specific songs they wholly enjoy or can memorise, the various passages and little quirks in and amongst the instrumental insanity is enough encouragement to keep listening. A very well done, and enjoyable, progressive rock record, though more nostalgic than innovative.