Give me an F! Give me an A! Give me a D! Give me a J!. What´s that spell?!! What´s that spell?!! Furious, Angry, Death, Jazz!
And wow! That is what this release contains - a whirl of music and lyrics conveying exasperation and frustration with the state of things. The music is rapid and brisk, sung in hoarse frustrated growling, tight Death Metal with a whirling saxophone. The release is in many ways contrasting the contemplative sense of John Coltrane´s A Love Supreme (1965), but with nods to the more intense parts of Coltrane´s masterpiece.
You might know the artist I am paraphrasing in the intro; Country Joe McDonald at the 1969 Woodstock festival when introducing his song made 300 000+ people shout a loud fuck venting their frustration over the Vietnam war and society in general.
Coming back to current affairs, Agabas, like many others, is filled with exasperated frustration at how society is evolving for the young people living through it. Agabas would probably have done the same way as McDonald if they had the chance and the answer would be the same today. Agabas never will of course, but they can give their frustration shape through lyrics and extremely frenzied Death Jazz. It is music like this that keeps you sane. And probably them too. It helps very well with the itching one can feel sometimes.
You sense the music´s breakneck power from the first note as the album opens with distorted riffs, fierce drumming, rumbling bass, and a swirling energetic saxophone in the opening song, “Megafon i et ekkokammer”. Yes, all the lyrics are in Norwegian, in the dialect of the area around Trondheim where the band is based. The title translates to Megaphone in an Echo Chamber and the vocalist with his hoarse growling spews out the words in anger at those who scream just to get a screaming echo back; “You hear no one else / You just want to argue / A megaphone in an echo chamber” (translated). The music varies between tight raging repetitive parts and releases with coarse growls and sax, but the drums and bass never fall back behind the pace of the fast music.
There is no time to catch your breath as you are swirled into the tumultous surroundings of the next song´s staccato rhythm that slides into raw echoing vocals with the fast sax breathing life into frustrated anger. The bass grooves, the riffs drive forward as the bass pitches upwards, and the whole band shouts in the background. The song is called “Steg etter steg”, which translates into Step by Step, and the staccato repetitiveness underlines the title. The song has a fascinating middle part that leaves the drums to rumble on alone before the saxophone blows back lingering in the layers of the heavy Death Metal music. The instrument pirouettes in the music from the low to high pitches and back.
The bass and drums open the next song “Evneveik” (Incabable) before the whole band joins with the saxophone first as a support instrument while the riff from the guitars joins the bass. Angry vocals are growling while the sax pushes the music forward in controlled turmoil with the occasional dip into some dissonant blows. With the help of the angry growls the vocalist and the rest of the band hammer in the message (translated): ”Your rant lost its charm long before you opened your mouth / I see you crawling out of your hole every time you get your chance to use tragedy as conspiracy fuel / As long as you have a foreigner to point to, you and your confirmation bias are safe”
After reminding us in the previous song that the worst mass shooting in modern times was performed by a 32-year-old white Norwegian male, the next song “Mitt liv til ingenting” (My Life for Nothing) opens with bare hoarse vocals and steady diverse drumming. We are yanked into music that is even more heavily turbulent than before, at least because of the drumming, bass and swirling saxophone that drives straight into the next intense song, “Overstimulert” (Overstimulated). Sax’s instrument leads the way, the song shifting from a fast pace to an even faster one, the saxophone spiraling with the hoarse growling driving everything forward. The song really gives meaning to the word “overstimulated”.
It is fast, it is agitated, but this sextet is comprising good musicians and it does not become a mess. They know how to let the music breathe even in the most intense parts. In the song ”Agabas” the tempo has a furious drive with vocals echoing each other. But it takes a breath for the sax to let some air into the music before it intensifies into blast mode where the sax rises up frantic and wild. It becomes extremely energetic with fast tremolo guitars, and a high-pitched solo flies away as the band shouts “Agabas”.
The vocalist sings with raging hoarse growling on ”Agabas”: “We’ve had enough / We are furious / We want justice / We’ve had enough / We are furious /And we’re all in.” (translated). Doing this, they reflect the main scene in the 1976 film Network where the newscaster suddenly begins ranting on live TV: “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. (…) I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”. To top this mirroring of the past off, they close the album with a vigorous version of a-ha´s 1985 hit ”The Sun Always Shines on T.V.”.
The band really succeeds in reflecting this blurred, rapidly changing world we live in where there seems to be no room for delayed reflection, the contradictions are everywhere; everything has to happen instantly; absurd polarization leads to violence and bullying; and the stimulation of the senses is a constant. They are not the first to be infuriated by the zeitgeist, and they will not be the last. But as I said, we need music like this to help relieve the itching if only for 38 minutes. But you can always set your player on repeat and dive deeper into the layers of this amazing release.