Written by: LF on 07/01/2020 21:56:00

On top of the list of albums that I regret not reviewing when they came out in 2019, we find Isbjörg's debut album, "Iridescent". They are something as rare as a Danish piano-centric progressive or math rock band who has taken the style in an upbeat, eclectic, and high-strung direction. In their process, they have managed to come out with nine songs that showcase some solid musicianship and a blooming nack for combining earworm melodies with the rhythm changes and general madness that otherwise characterize the genre.

In general, this is a lush-sounding and adventurous album, matching very well with the gold-tinged, life-affirming, and wondrous world of its cover. The powerful production and the ever-present piano are both key to these effects of the music but everything works especially well when balanced properly with the harder sounds of the guitars and bass. The vibrating vocals are woven nicely in with the instrumentation which is not always a task achieved this seamlessly when there is so much going on at the same time. Along with the more echoing guitar sections, the vocals especially serve to pull the group's expression towards a stadium rock attitude, avoiding nicely the pitfalls of the somewhat trite falsetto prog.

Structurally, the album is leveled out nicely with several highpoints throughout its duration. Some songs, of course, stand stronger than others with "The Curtains Slowly Rise" being the absolute gem of the collection. It is one of the more energetic and aggressive contributions to the album and as such, it plays right into my personal preferences. As it kicks in around the one minute mark with the chorus melody, it should have you floored already in pure delight. The melodies bounce off each other and crisscross throughout in a somewhat hyperactive way that hits everything just right to make it a surefire prog hit. It's a tightly cut song where every section serves its clearcut purpose but it also succeeds in being just high-energy and beautiful fun from start to finish.

The elegant start of the album that binds the first three tracks together, provides another great moment. Leading with the soft beginnings of "Supine", we are presented to the open-sounding music that just strives ever upwards. It also brings us a first taste of the band's jazzy tendencies, as it breaks down towards the end only to continue into an echoing and rock-solid solo guitar section that serves as a catchy hook to lure the listener only further into the album. A jumpy piano interlude takes full advantage of the curiosity built in us so far and as it drifts into the beat of the smooth "Illuvea", there's just no resisting and I find myself rocking my body along to it every time the transition happens. It is a song of contrast that insists on taking it all the way down every time it has built the tension up high. This works well for the song as a sort of slow burn and it leaves the listener with a sense of lacking resolution, drawing us only deeper yet.

As a pendant to the alluring and soft opening tracks, the two that end the record give us a darker side of the group's universe. First, the ballad "Stockholm Reversed" has some great but subtle melodies going for it and builds beautifully from tender piano arpeggios to a heavier breakdown in its end. Continuing from there, "Dimmie" only takes it further with a distinct riff that utilizes the darker end of the piano and lets the guitars and drums rip. Neither of them is as convincing at first as the aforementioned songs but they have been growing on me a lot, especially as I find them a very worthy end to the journey the whole album takes us on.

As with much mathy or proggy music, the group's challenge seems to lie in continually finding the golden combination of mood, melody and musical madness. They have already hit home on several parts of this record, though, and as they have also already found a sound very much their own, this bodes well for their future endeavors.

Download: The Curtains Slowly Rise, Illuvea, Stockholm Reversed
For The Fans Of: Reign of Kindo, Plini, Haken, Agent Fresco

Release date 26.04.2019

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