Spurv – Brefjære: Album Review

Brefjære – the fourth full length release from Spurv – evolved from musical ideas that express the far northern landscape of Norway, recognising the strength needed to survive a harsh environment.

Release date: 22nd September 2023

Label: Pelagic Records

Format: Digital / CD / LP

A cruise up the Norwegian fjords is an expensive trip so an adequate alternative is a listen to Spurv ’s latest album, Brefjære. Their brand of rock, exploring and expanding classical structures including choral vocals, is perfect for  creating a soundscape of life in this desolate area where ‘off the beaten track’ is merely an understatement.

Relocation to a remote area of Norway near Tromsø left songwriter Jorgen Pedersen exposed to wild elements of land above the Arctic Circle. Our exploration begins with the atmospheric Krokete, rettskafen, roughly translated as Broken Justice. Conjuring up the icy elements of the landscape with a melee of brass and keyboards before a chanting choir backed by ponderous percussion sets up the desolate mood.

The next track En brennende vogn over jordet (a burning wagon across a field – a very evocative image) is definitely fiery with fuzzy incendiary power chords. Guitarist Herman Otterlei’s repetitive but ever-changing riff is supported by glockenspiels, a brass  and a multi-voice choir creating a multitude of sounds almost cosmic rather than glacial.

Som Skyver is the track chosen to promote the album as a single and accompanying video. “ Spurv perhaps at its most ethereal,” says Gustav Jørden Petersen. “The song is about the wind that flies over the earth, rustles in the treetops, and plunges down over the mountain. It represents time and fleeting memories, words and ideas that are shared across generations. The song contains old melodies combined with new arrangements, and was finally realized as part of Brefjære after many years.”

A brief moment of lightness explodes into a crescendo; it calms and roars, rises and falls like the changing wind.

Under himmelhelvingen, (under heaven archway), is a brief tranquil track dominated by a solo male voice and is a prelude to the near 10-minute epic Til en ny vår (to a new one). A soothing melody begins and ends the track with a mushy climax in between showing that Spurv are not all about dynamic rock.

Å vente er å endre’s  (to wait is to change)sees eerie vocals splashed innocuously with static sounds but lulls you gently along before Spurv revisit their doom-laden themes in Urdråpene. Again a rough translation means ‘primal killings’  suggesting that although there is resilience in the barren and peaceful landscape, danger lurks, before Din pust fra stein (your breath from stone) delivers a choral piece to conclude this compelling album.

(Apologies if our attempts to translate the track titles irritates fans and composers alike but the meagre attempts might help to highlight the theme of this astounding piece of music).

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