Nordic Giants – Symbiosis: Album Review

Instrumental and experimental Post-Rock duo Nordic Giants release a third intriguing and immersive collection.

Release Date: 2nd February 2022

Label: self-released

Format: digital / cd

And now for something not completely, but certainly a little different.

The Nordic Giants calling card is based on widescreen cinematic soundscapes. For good measure, they also throw in the use of spoken word samples in the same way that Public Service Broadcasting have set new standards in merging words and soundtrack. It’s a technique that prompted a colleague to namecheck Nordic Giants while recently watching Poet Laureate Simon Armitage with LYR. It works and proves an intriguing combination.

On the aptly titled Symbiosis, the duo appears on the cover in modern-day ink splash versions of Peter Gabriel’s infamous slipperman. Barely recognizable features disguised in swirls of colour. An image that complements the music perfectly achieving the aim of portraying both natural and supernatural.

The album has been created to encompass a broad church of weird and wonderful sounds, from vintage analogue synths, Tibetan bowls and even a Carnyx horn. Some familiar guest vocalists in the form of Alex Hedley and Freyja add their haunting and ethereal sounds on top of the multi-layered instrumentals.

As pleasant as first impressions might appear, Symbiosis offers so much more than an easy-going listen. Don’t expect a walk in the park. This isn’t simply background music, but challenges us to listen deeply. It’s about immersion. The band self-consciously admits that the depth of emotion and spirit is almost deliberately challenging, in the sense that “even on the 100th listen there may still be new layers revealing themselves to you.” That thought is actually very gratifying.

So be prepared to dig deep; indulge in a bout of musical psychoanalysis as light passes into dark and vice versa while subtle and mysterious themes abound. They hove into view as a disengaged voice poses key questions, urging us to acknowledge how our minds are free; a soothing piano builds into a series of rolling and tumbling crescendos. As a scene setter it touches all bases. A foretaste of what’s to follow.

A peaceful calm pervades across Hjem where the gentle caresses of piano are carried on waves of atmospheric strings. Mightily relaxing and verging on angelic, probably accompanied by visions of a soft ride through wispy clouds. In the same ballpark lies Spires Of Ascendency where Wakemanesque piano rides over a subtle orchestral backing, whilst Faceless that features a contribution from Alex Hedley, shifts from a minimalist arrangement into something more akin to the shrill Post Rock dynamics. As close as we might get to experiencing the Anathema sound now they’ve called time.

With additional forays into the cinematic via Convergence (the lead guitar lines flying over the top of the increasingly frantic rhythms) and Freya’s haunting vocalisms on Spheres, Infinity provides a titan of a closing piece. Once again, the minimalism shines through, the opening section hanging around as a faint pulse and slide guitar add a solar dimension. The old Floyd trick of making the moment last. And to be mentioned in the same breath as such luminaries is an indication of the growing stature of Nordic Giants. Symbiosis is a major step for mankind.

Here’s a taste of Nordic Giants with Faceless from the album:

Nordic Giants online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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