Ladysnow Society (label)
18 June 2018 (released)
30 June 2018
Many of the most beautiful artistic works are born of not joy but tragedy. Opera, for example, is built primarily on devastating tales of betrayal, deceit, and death. One can argue that pain provides a deeper, more complex palette than bliss. No one embraces this idea quite like the Scandinavians. It is not an unfair characterization to say that their frigid climes lead to harsh and punishing music full of existential torment.
Swedish group The Blue Collar Army deals in a dark post-metal with elements of black metal peppered with ripping distorted vocals that whip through the tracks like a harsh arctic wind. The record is brazenly defiant calling for an outright violent revolution against the government and the establishment. This message is delivered by the band's masked aliases of The Englishman, The Old Man, The Pig, Baron Von Hurst, and screamer The Party Bear.
The album opens on a frosty sombre note with 'Welcome to NORRLAND'. Sweeping pads and slowly churning guitars are kept plodding along by measured drums. The bleak, languorous chord changes walk in the same snowy footprints as the theme to Russian Circles 2013 masterpiece Memorial. The mesmerizing, stare-inducing intro track borrows its hypnotic mantra from the school of shoegaze. The lead single 'Aurora' gains a little momentum. The simple haunting guitar lines are cut with ominous buzzing and whirring. The Party Bear makes his entrance with his ferocious icy gale that cuts through everything like an arctic blast freezing your eyeballs. The vocals are distorted past the point of comprehension, they end up serving as a chaotic musical element rather than a story to be followed. The inferences on the artist's intended message come almost exclusively from the song titles. Names like 'We Will Burn Your Cities to the Ground' and 'Hostis Humani Generis' (latin for “Enemy of Mankind”) leave little room for misinterpretation.
Norrland offers some gorgeous, albeit bleak soundscapes. The vocals are an acquired taste but if you consider them as another instrument adding to the depth and sonic chaos of the music rather than lyrics to be followed, they make a lot more sense in the context of the album. Not exactly the feel-good hit of the summer, made for those whose world is frozen all year round.