December 4, 2021

Kosmodome demonstrate straight out of the block to be mature and accomplished songwriters and musicians.

Norway has always been considered a small fish in the musical world, overshadowed even in Scandinavia by its heavyweight neighbour Sweden, but there is a strong and flourishing prog scene at present ranging all the way from the heavier end of the spectrum with Hex A.D through to the retro brilliance of Arabs in Aspice. And if one zooms in on the quaint coastal city of Bergen with its picture postcard painted houses and spectacular views of fjords and mountains, one might expect that the most raucous music coming from its concert halls to be the opening of Greig’s piano concerto. But instead, there is a new wave of psychedelic-inspired bands including excellent outfits such as Kryptograf and Himmellegeme. And here are the new kids on the block, Kosmodome, made up of two siblings, Sturle and Severin Sandvik, with Sturle handling guitars and singing duties and Severin behind the drum kit.

Leaving aside the one-minute ditty that opens affairs in a slightly underwhelming fashion, the album consists of seven tracks that adeptly mix ‘60s psychedelic, stoner, progressive and straight froward rock influences. The first proper track, Retrograde, bursts out of the gate with a cheerful ‘60s feel to it but you soon realise that this is a complex track full of subtle details, with multiple guitar refrains, some excellent bass underpinning the often-syncopated drums, good harmony vocals, plus some graceful touches from the keyboards.  In terms of its sound, it’s a piece that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on either of the first two Yes albums. And the similarity to Yes is also enforced by the way the thick textures are created by clever interaction of instruments. Musically, they knock gently on your door to persuade you to open it rather than try to bash it down with power chords or a wall of sound. After six and a half minutes of Retrograde you’ll certainly be opening the door and welcoming them in! The other very strong progressive track on the album is Deadbeat with its wonderfully twisting and complex main theme. The highlight of the vocal section is the short phrase of harmony vocals sung almost (but not quite) a cappella. After a breathless instrumental (listen out for the fantastic bass) and a repeat of the harmony vocals phrase, the song concludes with a slightly bizarre but very effective section with tom-toms, soft guitar picking, and very Yes-like vocalising. The album closes with the third progressive piece – a nine-minute instrumental entitled Orbit, mostly instrumental and a little on the jazzy side. It’s a nice piece but doesn’t quite match Retrograde or Deadbeat.  

Retrograde and Deadbeat amply and impressively demonstrate the Sandvik brothers’ prog credentials, but they can also rock in a more immediately accessible way too. The two singles released so far – Hypersonic and Waver II – are both amazingly catchy. In particular, Waver II has one of most the awesome and totally irresistible riffs I’ve heard this year. That riff is wisely offset by quieter dreamy prog-like vocal sections. It’s six minutes long but I can’t wait to hear the extended twenty-minute live jam of that one!  In contrast to those two tracks which work very well, Waver I is perhaps the one dud on this album. It’s a bit of an oddity really because the band abandon all subtlety and launch into a Mastodon-sounding riff with chaotic guitar overlays which sounds like Mountain gone wrong in my mind. If the band are thinking of releasing a third single then I suspect the choice will fall on the track 1%. As well as being interesting lyrically – a lament about the state of the world and the 1% who control most of the wealth. It has a fine melodic guitar refrain which quickly gets under your skin. This is a very impressive debut album. Kosmodome demonstrate straight out of the block to be mature and accomplished songwriters and musicians. Highly recommended.