0 5 mins 2 mths

Monotreme Records

Having reviewed Symbiosis, the new album by Nordic Giants recently, and having seen them live I was surprised just how similar this release from the Slovenian duo is. Subtle Realms, Subtle Worlds is the band’s follow-up release to their 2018 album Speaking for Clouds.

It might seem a little bit strange to say it but this album has a ‘continental’ feel about it. I’m not sure what it is but it would not be out of place as a soundtrack to a German or Scandinavian thriller series. That said, Subtle Realms, Subtle Worlds is a post-rock extravaganza of instrumental emotions.

The album begins with Organism. Predominantly keyboards and drums with added guitar the track moves from quiet reflection to edgy rock and back again several times almost like it’s telling a story where the storyline is constantly interrupted by some drama or other. The contrasting ‘subtexts’ work very well together and make this first track a guide to the rest of the album.

Don’t Look at it and You’ll See it is the second track and plays on the subtleties introduced by the strings. This track is more dramatic in some ways than the previous one insomuch as it imbues the listener with the feeling of open space but that something is about to happen . . . you just don’t know what it is. The song builds like that ‘something’ is coming but doesn’t quite push you over the edge keeping you in suspense and wanting more – whether that ‘more’ is to be pushed over the edge or dragged back from it is entirely down to the individual listener.

Third on the tracklisting is Hymn for the Giants. Reminiscent of early God is an Astronaut this starts as a simple guitar/drums track with nothing out of the ordinary until the more ‘orchestral’ elements get injected at which point the feelings darken before the lightness of the guitar takes over again . . . temporarily. This goes back and forth throwing the listener around quite wildly as the tone changes from gentleness to angst and anger.

We move on to Losing Home, the shortest track on the album. You’re out walking in the woods and come across an abandoned shack – the track has those feelings of apprehension when you don’t know what’s coming next. The drone of the trumpet distracts you from what’s actually going on. You open the door and instead of a shabby interior you’re met with something far more elegant and intriguing. Very cinematic.

Photograph: Marko Alpner Photography

The penultimate track is Antares goes Supernova. First, let’s have a science lesson. Antares is a red supergiant star that dwarfs our sun. It is the 15th brightest star in the sky in the constellation Scorpius, is around 550 light years away and is almost 700 times the size of our sun. Science lesson over.

This track is something of a mystery because there’s a short passage that sounds like a glitch on the album that is not so pronounced when played live. I think it’s deliberate, maybe Antares went supernova causing the ‘glitch’ but it will be 550 years before we find out! More upbeat than other tracks, the hugely dramatic guitar is the star here (see what I did there?).  Heavy, heavy theatre, in my opinion spoilt only by the ‘glitch’, deliberate or not. [postscript: the video of the live performance shows the glitch on the tape as both visual and audio interference – so it’s real].

Photograph: Marko Alpner Photography

The final track is Season of Eternal Maze. This is, quite simply, an uplifting passage of musical excellence. Not necessarily my favourite track but one which is assembled very well indeed. It flows without throwing any tantrums and is a very peaceful way to close the album. Super stuff.

Released by: Monotreme Records, out now (released March 11th 2022).

9/10 – it would have been 10/10 except for the rather maddening ‘glitch’ which is less annoying live!

Reviewed by Reg Richardson



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