Post-25th anniversary psychedelic majesty from Norway's venerable sonic voyagers. A 17-minute psychedelic epic might eclipse the preceding half-or-so hour of a 46-minute, seven-track album. Yet, in their 26th year, Norwegian psychonauts Motorpsycho seamlessly stitch Big Black Dog into the whole. Here Be Monsters is a suite, a single entity and an album as such. As with its predecessor En Konsert For Folk Flest, the music originally accompanied an event. This studio recon-figuration of compositions for the Norwegian Technical Museum's centennial draws from the same well as 2013's lovely Still Life With Eggplant with keyboard player Thomas Henriksen the only guest musician supplementing the core trio. Two short piano instrumentals punctuate the journey and the tone is set with a sensitive yet full-bodied version of the HP Lovecraft/ Terry Callier reflection Spin, Spin, Spin. Imbued with har-monies, melody and some hard-edged dynamics that draw on Led Zeppelin, this is what the pastoral Pink Floyd of 1971 might have done next. 4/5.
Originally commissioned for the centennial jubilee of The Norwegian Technical Museum with Elephant9 keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, and performed just once, even then it was apparent that this beautiful material had legs. When Storløkken could not commit to an album the core founding members of Motorpsycho (Magnus 'Snah' Ryan and Bent Sæther) set to work with new drummer Kenneth Kapstad to turn it into something special. Ditching their token heavier rock style Here Be Monsters works in a melodic cinematic style that crosses the terrain laid dawn by behemoths Pink Floyd and cinematic deities Goblin. Most interesting is their cover of Terry Callier's 'Spin Spin Spin' in which the clever trio completely recreate the Chicago psych impresarios HP Lovecraft's arrangement. The 17-plus minute 'Big Black Dog' is epic contemporary progressive song structure with more ebb and flow than Muse could muster in their entire career. A gorgeous and serious piece of work.
For the past 25 years, Motorpsycho have been making epic and occasionally challenging music that leapfrogs easy categorisation but can and does include nods to Pink Floyd, jazz guitar, folk and heavy metal, sometimes all in the same song. And if that sounds like a mess then it's anything but. Here Be Monsters - which started life as a commission for the centennial jubilee of the Norwegian Technical Museum, - may be less guitar-driven than their previous work, but it's a veritable behemoth of sounds. Washes of keyboards, a thunderous tattooing of drums and great, empty atmospheric spaces make for an inestimable, all-consuming listen, not least in the fragile-sounding Lacuna/ Sunrise and the roiling I.M.S. 8/10.
Classic Rock (UK)
If three decades have taught their fans anything, it's that Motorpsycho will never settle on anything remotely predictable. Here Be Monsters, the result of a commission for the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology, is as much a lyrical ode to inner turmoil as it is a musical one to the summer of love, its folk harmonising and sweetly meticulous melodies a treat for heart and ears. There's a sense that the darker content struggles to rise above the hazy lollop of Lacuna/Sunrise and the thunderous pulse of I.M.S but Big Black Dog acts as a bloody last stand, its pounding obliteration of gently fingerpicked guitar a staggering depiction of monsters triumphing over hope. Not as turbulent a ride as some have come to expect but still a plenty bumpy one.
These heavy metal fruits get so stricken by the proggy bug that they can't help but bounce out into propane-pulsing pockets of jazz-juiced rock on occasion. That kind of ill-bred habit has seen these guys bleed their cusps crimson in the past, but Here Be Monsters is far less coltish. That Elephant9's keyboardist Stale Storlokken was sat behind these moves when they were still gestating as a commission for the Norwegian Technical Museum back in 2014 is plain. 'Running With Scissors' signals a high-bunting time, frothing deep retro-psych vibes (Floyd and Jefferson Airplane) before a coup-de-soleil crowning of Terry Callier's `Spin, Spin, Spin' cradles a corn dolly in the lap of Comus' heathen heap. Here Be Monsters abounds with an almost Dionysian abandon — tender arpeggios, close-harmony vocals and plaintive piano patterns grandly punctuating the purr of the advancing machine — making this one of Motorpsycho's most pleasurably polychromatic discs to date. 4/5.
Cast a cursory ear over this new release and you could be forgiven for thinking that Motorpsycho are getting all mellow as they get older. The vocals frequently conjoin into beaming harmonies, guitars shimmer as if blown on a summer breeze, and the tempo rarely breaks out beyond a canter that even Pink Floyd, those masters of mid-paced pomp, might regard as a touch laid back. Yet beneath the agreeably accessible veneer coating parts of album, things are not quite as they seem. Leaving aside a soaring but relatively faithful cover of Spin, Spin, Spin, HP Lovecraft's slice of late 1960s psychedelia, the bulk of Here Be Monsters is based on a suite originally commissioned for the centennial jubilee of Oslo's Technical Museum. It's been repurposed to examine more of the murkier recesses of the human condition within which something dark lours - the monsters of the title. The lyrics of dreamily meandering Lacuna/Sunrise evoke the consequences of extreme behaviour, while IMS, initially pirouetting around a prettily cascading piano motif before falling into a pit of savage lead guitar lines, is spiked upon the guilt and recriminations arising from some unspecified transgressions of the flesh. Ratcatcher, from 2013's Still Life With Eggplant, provided a thrilling long-form centre to that record. Here that function's performed by Big Black Dog, which itself clocks in at a little over 17 minutes. Of course, even in prog size isn't everything - do the ideas and themes contained within this suite bear up to that kind of extended treatment? Yes. It's an exploration of the seasonal depression that can accompany the long, light-deprived Norwegian winter. The gently lilting melody, spun across chiming chords of the introduction, provides a sunny counterpoint to lyrics which are all about pleading for the sun to stay a little longer. Gradually shifting towards the shadows with Kenneth Kapstad's rumbling tom-toms trudging to a despondent, martial beat, Snah and Bent Sæther's vocals become stretched and desperate, rising up in plaintive supplication. It marks the beginning of a remarkably dramatic journey that feels bound to the slow movement of stars, connected to something that is ancient and steeped in ritual and leading to an inevitable, cathartic denouement. In other words, classic Motorpsycho.
For a band that has been releasing music since 1991 it’s incredible to think that with each new Motorpsycho release I can still feel excited before playing it and more than simply satisfied after listening. ‘Here Be Monsters’ defies any notion that a group's superior work lies in their formative years. This album is in a word – Outstanding. Opening with the minute long piano piece, ‘Sleepwalking’ breaks the album in perfectly. The gentle piece slides elegantly into the ten minute long ‘Lucuna/Sunrise’. Its summery morning feel blissfully glides along some understated guitar lines, and when Bent Sæther finally breaks the imagery with his creamy vocal tones you realise without any effort at all the band has won you over. Whether they take you by the hand and lead you through their take on Pink Floyd's trippy progressive leanings, Zeppelin's fuzzy riffing on ‘I.M.S’ or Fleetwood Mac’s knack for an infectious earworms over a Californian pop tune, you know you are going to be safe. Repeated listens only add to the listener’s pleasure of these joyous melodies and they effortlessly sweep you along until the neigh on eighteen minute album finale. Yep, eighteen minutes! Splashes of the Beach Boys perforate the opening few minutes of closer ‘Big Black Dog’. Then the band utilise Brian Wilson's creative passion to take the track into something quite unusual indeed. Dabbling in progressive rock isn’t necessarily anything new for Motorpsycho but within this epic time frame the band appear to have mastered at least their take on the genre. I’m on my fifth listen right now and I still can’t take it all in. Yeah, you could break it down to its individual parts but where is the fun in that? It’s like asking a magician to explain a trick. For now I’ll just press play and float away.
Scandinavian bands on the whole usually do this thing so much better, and in the case of the final two albums this is true. Norwegians MOTORPSYCHO have been plying their trade for 25 years and where Vodun fail on all counts, Here Be Monsters (Rune Grammofon) triumphs. Not only do the trio cover Terry Canter´s Spin Spin Spin with the same arrangement as HP Lovecraft, the rest of the album fuses beautifully-played hypnotic psychedelic passages with pastoral harmony vocals. Their best yet! Essential.
Record Collector (UK)
Bestillingsverket fra Norsk teknisk museum endte etterhånden som Motorpsychos tjuende studioalbum, eller der omkring, hvis vevre pianointroduksjon bærer bud om et band med senkete skuldre. "Here Be Monsters" er katalogens mest transparente, hvor det svale hovedverket i første del av programmet, ”Lacuna/Sunrise" utilslørt øser av trøndernes elsk overfor "The Dark Side Of The Moon", rustet med pasjonsfylt sangharmonisering, kirkeorgel, sterke melodilinjer og smakfull instrumentering. Metrisk utfordrende og full gass-rockeren "I.M.S.", samt eksegesen av Terry Galliers "Spin, Spin, Spin" etler mod-ell av amerikanske H.P. Lovecraft ftmg,erer som rent'frieri til fansen. Det er likevel atten minutter massive "Big Black Dog" som kaller på enhver musikkfrelsts oppmerksomhet. Verket bygges nennsomt fra pastoral-psykedelisk vokalhymnologi, til seig, upåvirkelig og forførende rockekoloss, hvis samklang, symfoniske melodikk, drama og overveldende timbre tilkjennegir bandets mest dommedaglig sakrale øyeblikk noensinne. Mesterverket, som trolig tangerer "Gullible's Travails", seiler nominasjonsfrist inn på undertegnedes egen indeks over Motorpsychos bestenoteringer. 46 minutter spilletid er romlig knapt i sådan kontekst, men stundom er trønderne å foretrekke i strammere tapning. Her nedfelles imidlertid nok av instrumentell boltreplass, hvorunder særlig gitarist Snah skinner. "There Be Monsters" er gruppas sterkeste arbeid siden karrierehøydepunktet "Heavy Metal Fruit", og du behandler deg selv stemoderlig og usselt om du ikke unner deg "Big Black Dog" innen året opprinner.
Norway Rock Magazine (NO)