Delvoid – Swarmlife – Album Review

Artist: Delvoid

Album Title: Swarmlife

Label: Banditt Media

Date of Release: 29 April 2022

Another new name to me, Delvoid are an interesting discovery, and one well worth bringing to your attention with a review. From the Norwegian capital, Oslo, or just outside, Delvoid have been in existence since 2008, and the quartet define themselves as alternative rock that “consists of noisy sound walls, vulnerable melodies, and mammoth-sized riffs.” They go on to say that they “…chase the same white whale as Tool and Sigur Ros, but add their own flavour of psychedelia and minimalism to the hunt.”

What is unusual is that I can definitely hear the references they make, but more so with Tool than Sigur Ros if I’m honest. The music does have plenty of quiet, subtle moments, but Sigur Ros are not the first name I think of when I’m listening to this record. Apparently, this third album is slightly different from previous efforts in that it dials up the psychedelia and the prog elements in favour of the more orchestral approach used previously and specifically with their last release, 2015’s ‘Serene’.

If I could use one word to describe ‘Swarmlife’ overall, it would have to be ‘frustrating’. Some of this record is sublime, whilst other parts don’t quite hit my sweet spot as forcefully. At nearly an hour in length, but comprised of just six tracks, this is an album where the band take their time to build up tension, allow the music to ebb and flow, and explore different sounds and textures along the way. But, it has to be said that some of the compositions are better than others for my tastes, leading to vast expanses of music that I wouldn’t necessarily skip, but which can have a tendency to drag a little as I await the parts of the record that I really like.

My slight disappointment is felt all the more keenly because ‘Swarmlife’ starts off so well. ‘Techtree’ is a ten-minute opening force of nature that shows what Delvoid are capable of when at their very best. Beginning slowly and tentatively, it takes a while for the song to build, but the tension is palpable, as you know something is awaiting just around the corner – or at least you hope it is. There’s a repetitive nature to the music as it gently increases the intensity, exploding after well after two minutes to reveal a lovely melodic guitar riff courtesy of Erik J. Halbakken and Alex M. Delver. In the blink of an eye, it is gone, replaced by vocals, bass, and drums, but when it returns after a period of excellently created introspection, it makes one hell of an impact; the melody is superb, the emotion equally so, as it tears at the heartstrings and sends shivers down my spine. Progressive this track certainly is, but there are big post-rock influences in the latter stages, where walls of guitar driven sound create a hugely impressive force against which it is hard not to succumb.

I’m less enamoured with the follow-up ‘Urras’, which is altogether less melodic, but much angrier, spikier, and caustic, led by the anguished screams and shouts of vocalist Alex M. Delver. Admittedly, after several spins, the understated catchiness of the music does start to make inroads, whilst the impressive musicianship becomes ever more evident, especially the drumming of Espen Th. Granseth, and the dancing bass of Magnus Andersen. And when Delver delivers his clean, melodious tones, he has an undeniably good voice.

I could cut and paste much of the previous paragraph for ‘Out Of Labour’. At over ten minutes, it covers a lot of ground musically, with much to admire, not least the conviction with which the lyrics are delivered and the top-drawer musicianship. But crucially, I don’t love it because, for me, there is a lack of killer melody within the composition, leading it to be the least effective track on the record as far as I am concerned.

Where Delvoid really shine for me, is when they explore their melodic sensibilities more keenly. ‘Collapsist’ is another lengthy track that ebbs and flows fluently, from heavy, clashing outbursts, to incredibly deft and gentle minimalism. Throughout the song though, the melodies are stronger, better defined, and therefore make a much bigger impression on me. That said, the real magic doesn’t appear until beyond the six-minute mark, when all pretence at heaviness is cast aside and the final three or four minutes are a poignant and stunning exercise in ambience and emotion. Remember those Sigur Ros references? Well, this is where they are heard and felt most strongly, complete with echoed, ethereal vocals that only add to the overall impact.

One of only two tracks under double figures, ‘Third Body’ provides flashes of brilliance within it. The melodies are a slow-burn affair, but in order to take the contrasts between light and shade that little step further than before, the band introduce some judiciously placed growls. It’s something I’d actually like to hear more of from Delvoid in future I must admit, as the growls are properly deep and menacing.

As it turns out, ‘Swarmlife’ is bookended by the best two tracks, with the magnificent ‘The Master’s House’ closing things out. At over thirteen minutes in length, it’s the longest of the six songs, but the delicate opening is gorgeous, and is allowed to take its time to slowly, carefully build, recede, and then unfurl through a wonderfully groovy riff. Not so much an explosion, as a robust increase in power and sonic authority. As is the Delvoid way, the ebb and flow to the song is great, creating some captivating textures along the way. In the second half of the song, some of the most stunning melodies emerge, to end the record on a genuinely warm, entertaining, and serene note, albeit a rather bittersweet one as the track unwinds into ambient territory, and slowly recedes to nothing.  

I feel, in retrospect that maybe the word ‘frustrating’ may have been a touch harsh on Delvoid and ‘Swarmlife’. When you stop and analyse it, there are so many positive attributes to this record, that to deride it based on one and a half songs that don’t hit the mark as strongly as the rest, seems unfair. So instead, what I will say is that ‘Swarmlife’ is a very commendable progressive, alternative rock/metal album that suggests to me that they have a big future ahead of them. More melody, more growls, but more of the same in terms of technicality, contrasts, and emotion next time please gentlemen. Grant me these wishes, and we may be on to a bona-fide album of the year contender.

The Score of Much Metal: 80%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

LionSoul – A Pledge To Darkness

Watain – The Agony And Ecstasy Of Watain

Dischordia – Triptych

Dragonbreed – Necrohedron

Audrey Horne – Devil’s Bell

Vanum – Legend

Stone Broken – Revelation

Radiant – Written By Life

Skull Fist – Paid In Full

Hurakan – Via Aeturna

Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme

Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set

Monuments – In Stasis

Soledad – XIII

Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes

Credic – Vermillion Oceans

Postcards From New Zealand – Burn, Witch, Burn

Darkher – The Buried Storm

Treat – The Endgame

Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone

Destruction – Diabolical

Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama

Angel Nation – Antares

Wolf – Shadowland

Denali – Denali EP

Centinex – The Pestilence EP

Meshuggah – Immutable

Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse

Tranzat – Ouh La La

Playgrounded – The Death Of Death

Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum

Abbath – Dread Reaver

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

Nordic Giants – Sybiosis

Persefone – Metanoia

Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion

Mystic Circle – Mystic Circle

Nasson – Scars

Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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