The Freak Is Alive
9th February 2015 – Dark Essence Records
01. Bury The Eyes Once Gold
02. Between Two Worlds
03. Familiar Unknown
05. The Freak Is Alive
06. A Beast Is Near
07. Creator of Malignant Metaphors
08. Undercover Imagination
09. Depths Of The Whole
It was around a decade ago that Momentum first blew me away live. At that point a completely different beast than the current iteration, they’ve moved from black metal to progressive death metal, lost a vocalist, and turned ultimately into a progressive sludge band. It’s been one hell of a ride, but The Freak Is Alive.
Momentum’s second full length album, their first for Norwegian label Dark Essence, it’s the band’s first as trio consisting of bassist/vocalist/artist Holaf, guitarist Ingvar and drummer Kristján. Joining the three of them are a few musical guests, most notably Sigurður (Atrum) who, until recently, was a full-time member of the band. Aside from him we have the always-excellent Ragnar (In Siren and Ask The Slave), his brother Ingólfur (Severed and Ophidian I), producer Flex as well as Karl the violin wizard (In Siren). These guests should be familiar to Momentum fans as they were all, apart from Sigurður, featured on 2010‘s Fixation, At Rest.
Momentum have always been a conceptual band; the Requiem EP was a 15 minute song split into three tracks, and Fixation, At Rest had a solid concept and artwork to go along with it – so The Freak Is Alive is no exception. The music flows together nicely, the booklet is filled with beautiful artwork by bassist/vocalist Holaf, and certain lyrical themes pop up in several tracks. All of these elements work together to make an album that’s more than just a collection of songs.
While Momentum managed to mix death metal with progressive post-metal beautifully on Fixation, At Rest, the death and black of yore has been mostly evaporated at this point. What has taken its place is pure doom, for better or worse. For the better is the great consistency and cohesiveness that their new sound has brought to the equation – however the vocals have sadly suffered from this transition.
The music flows beautifully from heavier sludge and doom riffs to softer “post” sections, many of them with a progressive twist and interesting rhythmic ideas. The vocals follow suit, from screaming to singing, but this is definitely where the album’s biggest problem appears. Although most of the vocal styles on the album are perfectly fine, there are times where the monotonous, almost hymnal vocals start to sound bored rather than ominous or ritualistic. This is more noticeable in some songs than others, but fortunately the music usually doesn’t fall in the same trap and keeps the listener interested throughout. The material at hand is a lot subtler and, dare I say it, cosier than anything Momentum have done before.
Despite the heavier parts the album feels very relaxing overall and that’s why the hymnal, monotonous vocals are actually quite appropriate. They just need a bit more conviction at times to fully flesh out the ritualistic sound as you can hear this sound work wonders on the album’s title track.
The Freak Is Alive is definitely a grower rather than a shower and as such it doesn’t grab you as instantly as previous material did. Countering this, the engaging songwriting and great production job from longtime collaborator Flex make sure that, despite needing a few spins to truly get stuck in your head, the album never feels off-putting. Each instrument can be easily heard, and the additional instrumentation – especially the sitar – adds some exotic flavour to the processions.
Although The Freak Is Alive is Momentum’s most cohesive work to date, some minor inconsistencies keep it from feeling like their magnum opus. It is in no way a bad album – quite the contrary – but it does have some difficulties living up to the expectations set by previous material.