Norway has become one of the world’s leading countries when it come to delivering high quality progressive rock bands, with acts such as Jordsjø, Amgala Temple, Elephant9, Seven Impale, Leprous, Shaman Elephant and the recently reviewed Maraton.
In addition to progressive rock, grunge and stoner rock are also obvious influences on Underwing, an exciting young band from Arendal, southeastern Norway. Underwing has been described as the child of Black Sabbath and Alice in Chains who was adopted by Tool, growing up in a neighborhood of Soundgarden and Motorpsycho. Those are big words to live up to but the description is not far off!
Underwing’s new 4 track EP “Spirals” is the follow-up to 2017’s “Kaela Upsweep”, their critically acclaimed first EP. In the meantime, the band has also released a string of singles, available on Spotify and at Bandcamp. “Spirals” is released digitally and on vinyl. The vinyl printing is limited to 100 copies, numbered in blood(!), and released via Pinecone Records.
The “Spirals” EP starts off with “All Rise” (4:43), a track with the darkness and time changes of Tool but with an emotional vocal delivery that’s perhaps closer to that of Layne Staley rather than Maynard James Keenan. “We Lie Awake” (5:42) has been singled out as the first track to be promoted through a music video, which can be viewed below. This one manages to be both catchy and rhythmically complex, once more with an aggressively excellent vocal performance!
The tempo is initially lowered for the title track “Spirals” (5:15) but the atmospheric music is soon followed by a heavy Sabbathesque riff. This one could have fit in on one of those early Alice In Chains EP’s. “Caveman” (8:06) is the longest track on the album, bringing A Perfect Circle to mind. I also suspect that the band may have listened to Riverside and Porcupine Tree at some point. Am I right? This ends the EP way too soon and leaves me longing for Underwing to make their full lenght debut.
Through “Spirals” as a whole, Underwing tells the story of how one comes across the same challenges and experiences repeatedly. “Life can be seen as a spiral where you’re constantly widening your perspectives, and changing your behavioral patterns based on what you learn”, says frontman Enyeto Kotori. This sounds philosophically profound but having read the lyrics, I sadly don’t find these to be the band’s main strenght. Listening to the EP, however, this is hardly a problem. The music is heavy, interesting and just plain great. As are the vocal performances which sounds emotionally convincing regardless of the words.
A tour stretching from June to August will take the band to several new locations all over Norway. Here’s hoping for them to cross the border for a tour of Sweden before they take on the world!
Title: Spirals (EP)
Label: Pinecone Records
Date of release: 2019-06-01
Standout track: We Lie Awake