Midnattsol – “The Aftermath” (Napalm Records)
Aptly titled, a lot of water has flown under the bridge in the last few years for Midnattsol in losing a number of members, leaving only founder vocalist Carmen Elise Espenæs and keyboardist Daniel Fischer still in the band. Added to that, Carmen’s sister Liv Kristine (Espenæs), famed vocalist of Theatre Of Tragedy, left Leave’s Eyes in 2016. However, the aftermath has been a pleasant one, with Liv now joining her sister in Midnattsol as 2nd permanent vocalist, and on the strength of the 10 sophisticated tracks of this 4th album, it looks like we’re onto something big here folks! Adding her soprano range to the angelic tones of her sister, the dual femme vocals are truly amazing although I have to say the material as a whole is incredibly well composed, taking in symphonic, gothic and even folk elements, but all with a very dramatic and hugely passionate sound to them all thanks to the sterling musicianship and outstanding performances of the Espenæs sisters! From the title track ‘The Aftermath’ which begins with somber orchestrals and delicate acoustic guitar, the double bass drums roll in the flowing Valkyrie vocals to a catchy chorus, enhanced by rich Nordic guitar melodies and moving strings all of which add to the incredible atmosphere on this magnificent soundscape. Even without the superb dual vocals the majestic material is up to measure given the even more hugely atmospheric instrumental ‘Evaluation Of Time’, the first half of which is an unhurried ambient piece which then gives way to bombastic folk with plenty of dexterous fret board work in the intricate melodies as the double bass drumming adds even more backing furore to the already overloading passion! Darkening the mood on the traditional Swedish ballad ‘Herr Mannelig‘, the layered vocals (including some beastly male growls) tell the tale sombrely as moving orchestrals come into play alongside Fischer’s keys and backed this time by some raw guitars. I love the way the band trade off each other so well and it’s all to the benefit of the listener in having some truly mesmerising music to experience! Given the high standard evident across the album having to make a choice for a best track was truly challenging, but ‘Syns Sang’ really brought my symphonic passion to the fore with powerful use of all the instruments from dramatic riffs to heavy drums, suave keyboards and of course, the blinding vocals of the Espenæs sisters once more. If this be the aftermath of many a year in limbo, then I’d say that Midnattsol have truly found their feet in delivering this epic album, the heights of which reach well into the heavens!