Bergmál – Saker man tänker på när det tyst

Saker man tänker på när det tyst cover art

Artist Bergmál
Album Saker man tänker på när det tyst
Genre Post-Rock
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Label
Release 31 March 2013
Rating: Very Good

The one thing that has time and time again irked me about the post-rock genre is the lack of thought that goes into some band’s album  artwork. I understand it though. Most releases are online only or extremely short printed, so why bother spending copious amounts of time on artwork? The music is the most important aspect of an album, don’t get me wrong, but seeing effort poured into an album cover or vinyl gatefold just makes me that much more interested in the album I’m about to listen to.

With Postrockstar, I’m in a frustrating position where there is too much music and not enough time for me to possibly listen to it all. The bands that get reviewed and promoted here are the bands that stand out the most. I’d like things to be different, but for now that’s mostly the truth about how our process works. Albums that consistently grab my attention are ones with amazing artwork or unique photography.

That’s how I discovered Bergmál, a talented group of four guys who make music out of Motala, Sweden. Their 2011 effort, ‘Under Månen Lever Jag‘ grabbed my attention only because of its album art. If you’re not familiar with the cover, a beautifully hand drawn barn owl with a tiny little village of houses is flying through a dark starry night that’s been carefully painted with water color. The contrasting art styles create majestic scenery. The imperfection of the dark trees in the background combined with the thousands of thinly detailed lines in the owl’s body, the shading of the feathers against the star-laden backdrop. The biggest travesty to be found is that there is no option for me to purchase a high quality print to place on the wall. (hint hint, gentlemen).

While ‘Under Månen Lever Jag’ is unquestionably a slower album compared to their latest ep, ‘Saker man tänker på när det tyst‘ which I’ll get to in a little bit, the most memorable track on ‘under’ to me is “Hindenburg“, which makes depressingly brilliant use of Herbert Morrison’s infamous commentary during the disaster. The rest of ‘under‘ is solid, but ultimately “Hindenburg” and the artwork itself made the album for me.

And now they’re back with “Under Månen Lever Jag“. an album the band claims is their attempt to strive towards a heavier sound with great contrasts in order to promote a wider spectrum of feelings in their listeners. The 5-track EP starts innocently enough with “Imorgon, dagen jag lär mig” and feels right where their 2011 effort left off. Layered guitar work leads the listener along as the wall of sound begins to build. Combining subtle delay effects with guitar work that has a slight twinge in it is a unique touch that works well. Mellow harmonizing and vocals are non-obtrusive and feel welcomed.

Ingenting” floods the eardrums with low-lying bass before picking up the pace as a sense of urgency falls over the song. Drumming is really the highlight here and does a great job controlling the tempo. A little too much cymbal riding, which can be said for all of Bergmál’s work, but that is something that is forgivable. One thing I admire about the band is their ability to seamlessly transition from their heavier to softer material at a moments notice AND completely change the direction of a track. Most bands are pretty good at doing one or the other, but very few succeed at doing both at the same time without it being noticeable. Bergmál gets an A+ in this category.

Att vara ensam” is an interesting track that starts similar to other tracks until it catches you completely off guard with an innocent yet sudden build up that leads to one of the heaviest moments on the EP. The band teases a heavy finish but opts to bring the decibel levels back down before finishing in twinkley fashion. “Dahlian” is the truly unique track to be found here and is certainly the most cheerful and happy track, complete with an upbeat tempo and dominant vocals. As someone who has a track record of hating vocals in post-rock, I don’t mind the vocals found here or really throughout any of Bergmál’s songs. The song does a complete 180 as it gains a head of steam towards the end as a crescendo guitar and aggressive drumming dominate the mix. A final guitar layer takes spotlight away from the crescendo guitar as the two duel for the listener’s attention in opposite channels as the track comes to a close.

Jag glömde vem du var” is the EP’s closer and features samples deeply embedded in the inner layers as haunting guitar work squeals in the foreground. I like the track and it’s certainly a respectable closer, but I think it loses a bit of its luster thanks to “Dahlian” being a difficult act to follow. Another teasing series of build ups and “Saker man tänker på när det tyst” comes to a close.

If there  is one complaint I have about this EP is that the band never really fully opens up for more than 15 seconds at a time. Just once I hoped the band would rip the spectrum wide open and go all out heavy for a full minute if not longer. Otherwise I find the album to be a very good example of a lower key post-rock that captures the imagination with bright guitar work and clever, on-the-fly changes in styling. While the album art isn’t as captivating this time around, the contents within are better than it’s predecessor and ultimately that’s why Bergmál deserve your attention.