Artist: Port Noir
Album Title: The New Routine
Label: Inside Out Music
Date of Release: 10 May 2019
I come to this review as a complete newbie in terms of Port Noir. Prior to pressing play on ‘The New Routine’, I can’t recall ever listening to these guys before. And that’s odd for many reasons. Port Noir are Swedish for a start, which in my world is significant. And, based on my research, they have delivered some tasty progressive music over the course of their first two records. Well, I can’t catch them all I suppose.
In a way, being unfamiliar with Port Noir is helpful when reviewing this, their third studio record. I’m not burdened by expectations or preconceived ideas about how the music should sound. Instead, I am the human equivalent of a blank canvas.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure of what to make of ‘The New Routine’ when I listened a few months ago for the first time. In fact, I shelved the record in favour of others that more immediately hit the mark and moulded themselves to my taste. However, since returning to this reviewing lark, I was persuaded to give this album another listen.
It’s truly strange because there are definitely aspects of the music that I don’t care much for. And yet, I have begun to like this record. And I mean, I really like it.
The ‘progressive’ tag on ‘The New Routine’ is deserved, but less so for the technicality and more for the way in which the trio of AW Wiberg (drums), Love Andersson (bass/vocals) and Andreas Hollstrand (guitar) have managed to blend so many different influences from across the musical spectrum and managed to make them come together in something approaching cohesiveness. That’s not to say that the compositions are basic, because they are not, but don’t expect frivolous three-minute instrumental interludes or solos. Instead, the songs themselves have an average overall running time of four minutes. This is succinct and well-honed music.
The first thought I had when opener ‘Old Fashioned’ blared from the speakers was ‘what the hell is this?’. It sounded like synth-pop and rock blended with jangly-sounding guitars and strangely confrontationally-delivered vocals from bassist Andersson a la Rage Against The Machine or even maybe a toned-down Beastie Boys. Not my usual fare at all, especially when you throw in the name Muse to the mix – I’ve never understood the love for that band. But then comes the chorus that is, frankly, irresistible. It is hook-laden and despite the overt synths that dominate, I have grown to adore it.
Follow-up ‘Flawless’ follows a similar pattern thanks to more wonderfully addictive melodies that hook themselves deep into me. At this point, I’m reminded a little of Agent Fresco in terms of the melodic sensibilities.
Elsewhere, ‘Champagne’ catches my ears thanks to another insanely catchy synth-drenched chorus that could easily have been born in a different decade or from within the mainstream pop world. However, the spiky, fuzzy guitars and strong rhythm prevent a catastrophe and actually help to create something rather intriguing and beguiling.
‘Low Lights’ kicks off like a funky 80s pop song before some groovy guitars kick in, albeit with less gusto than I would have liked. ‘13’ ramps up the intensity and rock power with strong riffs but thanks to some weird synth effects and almost-rapped vocals over the top, it is even more bizarre than what has gone before. Like a broken record though, it’s the crashing and melodic chorus that means it’s impossible for me to not like it. Did I mention this record offers catchy choruses? I did, well you’d better add ‘Young Bloods’ to the list while you’re at it, then.
Some tracks work better than others, it must be said and I’m not altogether sold on the more overt R&B and hip-hop ingredients that the band themselves reference. I’d also suggest that for the most part, the front half of the album contains the strongest material, with the final movements ever so slightly petering out. And the cover artwork is a bit naff to be honest. But that aside, I have gone from scratching my head in puzzled bewilderment to almost fully embracing the album, enjoying it more with every spin. If you’re prepared to leave your preconceptions and irrational prejudices at the door and approach ‘The New Routine’ with an open and willing mind, it is highly likely that it will dig its claws into you and drag you into the pretty unique new world of Port Noir. Give it a go, it’s liberating.
The Score of Much Metal: 85%
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from 2019:
Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites
Ray Alder – What The Water Wants
Borknagar – True North
Leprous – Pitfalls
Myrath – Shehili
Prehistoric Animals – Consider It A Work Of Art
Voyager – Colours In The Sun
Odd Logic – Last Watch Of The Nightingale
Avandra – Descender
Darkwater – Human
ZW Band / Zonder Wehrkamp – If It’s Real
Teramaze – Are We Soldiers
Rendezvous Point – Universal Chaos
Our Destiny – Awakening
Evergrey – The Atlantic
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: