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The Third and the Mortal — Nightswan
(VOW 047, 1995, CD)
The Third and the Mortal — Painting on Glass
(VOW 051, 1996/2010, CD)
by Mike Ohman, Published 1996-08-01
Not long ago, you may recall, this Norwegian band gave us their debut releases: the mini-CD Sorrow and its full-length companion Tears Laid In Earth. These were promising but unexceptional. Not so their latest brace of CDs, which are breathtaking to say the least. Original singer Kari Rueslatten left the band. Her replacement is the equally talented but very different vocalist/keyboardist Ann-Mari Edvardsen. While Rueslatten was an excellent singer, her persistently pretty voice sometimes worked against the very dark tone in which the band was (and still is) operating. Edvardsen on the other hand is more of a vocal chameleon, her voice changes to suit the needs of a certain piece, be it Nico-esque chanting (ah, but if only Nico could sing like this!) or Marilyn Horne operatic drama. On Painting on Glass, the band show immense growth since Tears Laid in Earth. The three guitar attack, once a mere gimmick, here becomes a powerful musical force. The blasts of the triple guitar attack on the appropriately titled "Magma" wash over you like powerful waves like the best King Crimson. But thanks to the fact there are multiple guitarists, no Frippertronics or fancy studio tricks are needed to arrive at this miraculous sound. The band have also moved beyond the stark sonic monochrome of "Tears" to glorious living color. Part of the reason for that is the increased role for keyboards – three band members (especially Edvardsen) play digital synths and piano, while three guest players add Mellotron, ARP and pipe organ. Other guests add trombone, didjeridu, and percussion, adding a wealth of texture only hinted at on earlier efforts. Crimson fans will have no problem relating to their first taste of this album, especially as it opens with the intense "Magma" and the equally seething "Commemoration." The rest of the album is more atmospheric, only pulling out the big guns for the sake of drama, and even taking a "world music"-like turn on "Eat the Distance." Some slower sections tend to drag, and it occasionally seems a bit padded (it's a very long album), but there are enough strong passages on Painting on Glass to make it worthwhile.
Nightswan is another mini-CD which predates Painting on Glass. It's really just a teaser for the full-length CD, but since there are no overlapping tracks, there are some must-haves here. The powerhouse ten-minute "Neurosis" is especially noteworthy, and the brief fanfare of "Vavonia - Part 1" is bound to leave you hanging by a thread waiting for Part 2 (which is on Painting on Glass). If you enjoy Painting on Glass the answer is simple, you have to have Nightswan as well.
Related artist(s): The Third and the Mortal
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