Spirits of the Dead, characterized as Norway’s finest (and probably only) export of stoner-folk-rock, return with Rumours of a Presence. The unit’s third release encompasses different eras, tapping into the altered state jams of the ‘60s & ‘70s while integrating the doom and dread of modern times. With Norway’s reputation of exaggerated cadaverous metal, Spirits of the Dead’s sounds of psychedelic slumber is a refreshing glimpse into a new world. While the band’s sound undoubtedly still resides in a damp hollow, groveling in the melodic undertones of the dark; Rumours of a Presence has a stirring energy, a hope of some sort, within its undertow.
The album starts with the vibrant clamor of “Wheels of the World”. The punchy guitar work (Ole Øvstedal) could be classified as an enhanced form of robot rock. This formula is simple yet effective. One solid groove is discovered to drive the rhythm and repeated, while other instruments tangled themselves to the entrapped host of sound. The next song and my personal favorite “Song of Many Reefs” shows a cadence that is more versatile and intriguing. After the humble beginning, the song takes a cosmic shift in pace mid way through. As the solemn scenery is constructed with sprawling bass thuds, soaring guitar solo interludes and even sprinkles of piano in its outro, this deviation turned a song that would be considered an admirable sophomore effort into an immediate epic.
Next up is the kaleidoscope pop groove of “Golden Sun” that on first listen could be obtusely mistaken for alternative rock radio darlings Queens of the Stone Age. Ragnar Vikse’s vocal style is harsh and less forgiving than QOTSA’s Holmes with his effective yet almost excessive falsetto. The title track “Rumours of a Presence” meshes the rigid stoner riffs and the despondent nature of an organ to meld the hypnotic dream-sphere. As quickly as it began, the album comes to an inconspicuous end with the final track “Oceanus”. The song sends the listener floating in this watery ambience with haunting yet delicate strums. Throughout the entire album, the dexterous bass thumps of Kristian Hultgren break any possible rhythmic monotony. On “Oceanus”, Hultgren expertly scales up and down his instrument; his brooding plucks radiate a menacing chill down the spine of the track.
The true disappointment but also triumph of Rumours of a Presence is its quick runtime of 40 minutes. Right as you feel you have submitted to the mind-bending journey with Spirits of the Dead, it abruptly ends. Though it leaves the listener craving more, you want to continue the campaign and ride the luminous waves through this curious cosmos. With its ghostly grooves and masterful musical craftsmanship, Rumours of a Presence will stay with you long after it ends as the emptiness of silence plunders your headphones.