Fiord-forged and resolute, Norwegian gothic rock duo Årabrot are releasing their tenth album, Of Darkness and Light, on 13th October on Pelagic Records.
Operating out of Djura Missionshus, their home studio in the deconsecrated church in rural Sweden where they live with their two children, Årabrot is the iconic duo of vocalist/guitarist Kjetil Nernes and his wife, vocalist/keyboardist Karin Park.
With its origins going back 20 years now, Årabrot’s list of achievements is long: collaborating with fellow innovators Stephen O’Malley and Lustmord; working with such producers as Steve Albini and Billy Anderson; winning a Norwegian Grammy.
There is a timelessness to the music of Årabrot; just as you think you have pinpointed an influence or reference point, it will escape your grasp, twisting and turning in unexpected directions, shaping a sound that is truly unique. The last two decades have seen Årabrot shapeshift through multiple iterations; they’ve tried on different shapes and sizes, encompassed different moods and explored the outer reaches of various genres and yet never sounded less than entirely themselves.
Of Darkness and Light took a long time to take shape and become a whole. Kjetil’s prolific songwriting ability meant that some songs had been tucked away for years, waiting for the perfect time and environment to bloom. Others were written with more urgency in the months leading up to the album’s recording.
Having survived throat cancer almost a decade ago, Kjetil speaks of the high that follows the realisation of a second chance at life. But eventually the inevitability of normality creeps back into daily life; the lull in live band activity in 2020 provided an opportunity to reset and take stock.. “There were certain things that I had to address concerning myself,” he states, “I’m dealing with human things, anger, frustration, bitterness, regret… not without hope though.” The album’s title references Nietzche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra – a philosophical text centred on self-overcoming, of transcending our own limitations. Or as Kjetil puts “You’re down in the dirt, but you have to climb out of it and find a way to make it all better.”
The band’s friend and collaborator Lustmord has written: “Born of the long dark winters of Norway, Årabrot was too black for metal and too avant-garde for punk, so it forged its own path… It is The Velvet Underground if Johnny Cash was a member and Nico was able to sing. It is Camus, Sartre, Poe and Burroughs, cut-up and regurgitated in an unholy erotic mass.”
Of Darkness and Light bursts with infectious melodies and shines with the massive production of Alain Johannes, whose work on Mark Lanegan’s 2020 album, Straight Songs of Sorrow, won over Nernes, and who, as a musician, has performed with the likes of PJ Harvey and Them Crooked Vultures.
The trio spent several weeks together, weaving their work around family life, putting together the puzzle pieces that would make up Of Darkness and Light – their first album recorded entirely in the church. The result is a bona fide rock album – under the electrifying veneer of shimmering synths and sophisticated sparkle, beats a heavy rock heart. The 2022 Heart EP lay something of a breadcrumb trail should one wish to trace some of the inspirations that can be detected, traced in the air around these ten songs. Words barely do justice to the visceral, concupiscent desire that lies behind their rallying cries on “We Want Blood” – a foot stomping, anthemic thrust that lies in the middle of the album. Elsewhere sinister murder ballads sit alongside celebratory ‘fuck yeah’ moments of joy; their pared-back approach to instrumentation does not diminish the richness of their sound.
Theatrical, bombastic, dancing on the line between the macabre and the comical, Of Darkness and Light is, among other things, a celebration of the hooks and swagger and almighty power of rock. The Birthday Party and Swans are still references, but so are Queens of the Stone Age and Ghost.
Årabrot comes gloriously into their own in a live setting – with Kjetil holding court with liturgical flamboyance, whilst Karin gives herself over to a hypnotic rhythm of their own making. The pair are most electrifying to witness when performing; their symbiotic devotion is palpable as they perform in the clothes they were married in. And the songs on Of Darkness and Light sound as though made just to be experienced in a live setting – no light show, no pyrotechnics are a match for their apocalyptic revelry.
Rest assured, as long as there is breath in their bodies, this pair will be found preaching rock and roll under the neon-lit Årabrot cross.