Nordic Giants - Symbiosis

26 Jan 2022 - Jonas

Post-Rock / Neoclassical / Cinematic | Release date: 04 Feb 2022

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Rôka and Löki are the highly enigmatic members that make up the cinematic post-rock duo Nordic Giants. Through a successful crowdfunding campaign, they are now back with their first album in five years – Symbiosis! Here are my thoughts on the album, my first experience with them, and how their audio-visual concept brings their live shows to a completely different level.

The year was 2013 when I went to the inaugural edition of the Bristol-based festival called ArcTanGent, a festival that has since managed to rack up some of the most ridiculous line-ups ever seen for fans for post-hardcore, mathcore, post-metal and post-rock. A veritable smörgåsbord, so to speak. With that being said, I wouldn’t say the festival comes from particularly humble beginnings, having established acts like 65daysofstatic, Fuck Buttons, Maybeshewill, as well as And So I Watch You From Afar on the bill, but they also had some rising stars, like Rolo Tomassi, Dragged into Sunlight, Bossk, Devil Sold His Soul, and… Nordic Giants.

I had, at best, skimmed through the line-up in advance to see what was worth checking out and Nordic Giants were definitely among them. They played at the ‘Bixler’ stage, which was the second smallest one, and it was packed with people. I squeezed my way up to something resembling the front of the stage just as the show started, with video clips synchronized across several monitors of different sizes, with Rôka and Löki sporting post-apocalyptic tribal outfits, just biding their time, until finally exploding in perfect sync with the video being played. Right then and there, I was sold. It was one of the best shows I had ever experienced in my life.

There’s a problem with music meant to be audio-visual though. It doesn’t always translate very well into just audio, even if you’ve already seen the visual side of it. There are several prolific acts of the instrumental post-rock movement that has made a name for themselves through what I would like to call “faux soundtracks”, music for imaginary films, a concept I should be all over, in theory. In reality, I just have a really hard time connecting with it on an emotional level. This has been the case with Nordic Giants for me as well, listening to them on record.

So – With that being said, did Nordic Giants manage to evoke me with Symbiosis? Yes. I feel like they’ve disconnected digitally from their monitors and just plugged straight into my fleshy and analog brain. I can finally “see” the scenes and sceneries I’m supposed to experience and/or feel. I’m sure these tracks all come with vivid videos on their own for their live shows, but right now they’re painting eloquent pictures on their own.

While the percussion and piano have always been at the forefront of their music, here they’ve let other instruments come up front and even take the lead sometimes. We have larger-than-life synthesizer melodies defying gravity, lifting you up, as well as careful additions of horns and gorgeous trumpets bringing additional depth to their sound. If there’s an instrument I’m missing overall in this genre, it would be the trumpet. When executed properly, it just adds so much. We also see the return of long-time collaborators, Freyja and Alex Hedley, adding their voices to two tracks, and the entire album is laced with cello and strings, adding a certain neoclassical tinge to everything.

In conclusion: If you’re at all into highly evocative post-rock with a neoclassical flair then you’d do best to not miss out on Symbiosis, Nordic Giants’ best one yet, featuring a wide selection of instruments to further emphasize and conjure up the incredibly cinematic nature of this duo. Needless to say, I can’t wait to experience these tracks live.