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The Opium Cartel - Ardor CD (album) cover

ARDOR

The Opium Cartel

 

Crossover Prog

3.61 | 28 ratings

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Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 3.5 stars. THE OPIUM CARTEL were a who's who of the Norwegian Prog scene back 2009 when they released their debut. This is the second and right now most current release of theirs from 2013. WHITE WILLOW's Jacob Holm-Lupo is the main man here composing all but one track that happens to be a BLUE OYSTER CULT cover. He takes care of the guitar duties but also sings on one track. Mattias Olsson(ANGLAGARD) is on drums, Lars Froisle(WOBBLER) on a variety of keyboards and Letil Einarsen(JAGA JAZZIST) on flute and woodwinds. There's five singers, six counting HENRY FOOL's Stephen Bennett who I believe adds only backing vocals. Female Norweigian singer Venke Knutson has higher pitched, fragile vocals and she's on five of the songs here. Alexander Stenerud sings on three tracks and he reminds me a lot of Steve Hogarth. Rhys Marsh who many will know sings on two songs and Tim Bowness(NO-MAN) on one track.

So we get these incredible instrumentalists who are playing fairly straight forward sounding music but there's also proggy moments littered throughout this. Also there are three songs on here that I am a huge fan of and one I can hardy tolerate. I enjoy this one overall but I just can't pull the trigger on that fourth star. I was really hoping this might be more like Sweden's THE AMAZING who play a more straight forward type of music with a Dream Pop vibe and lots of atmosphere. Great night to review this as we are in another blizzard here in central Ontario.

"Kissing Moon" has Rhys and Venke on vocals, Rhys leads but Venke sings lead on the chorus. A pretty good opener and I like when it turns experimental 4 1/2 minutes in.

"When We Dream" is where I first heard Stenerud sing and I really thought it was Hogarth. I mean check him out when he first sings on this track. Venke adds backing vocals. The chorus doesn't do much for me but it's not a bad song.

"Silence" features Tim Bowness and his unmistakable vocals. Lots of deep atmosphere to start as some guitar melodies arrive. Mellotron too as Tim starts singing before a minute. Flute 3 minutes in and then jarring percussion sounds which come and go. Love the atmosphere.

"Norther Rains" has Stenerud on vocals and this seems to be an attempt at a hit? The worse song on here. Any time I hear a phrase repeated over and over it just brings lame Pop songs to mind and here it's "Walk away" that's repeated. "Revenant" has Jacob and Venke on vocals. This just isn't my thing either to be honest.

"White Wolf" is a top three. Stenerud on vocals and I'm not big on the start of this at all but man when we get that prolonged instrumental section I'm sold big time. It's a melancholic calm as flute, drums and guitar lead. it's building. Such a great passage here until the earlier section returns with vocals. Another calm late around 5 minutes with organ and more.

"The Waiting Ground" is another top three. Sounds like vibes and synths to start as Venke adds her fragile vocals. Love when it turns fuller, especially that bass. Nice. Mellotron too. My favourite section might be when we get that fuzzed out organ bringing Canterbury to mind around 4 minutes.

"Then Came The Last Days Of May" which I'm sure every Norwegian must look forward too. This is the BLUE OYSTER CULT cover and I do like the lyrics and mellow sound as Venke adds her sweet vocals.

"Mariner, Come In" ends it and it's my final top three and the most challenging song by far. It's over 11 minutes long and check out the guest sax 8 minutes in. What a display as he lets it rip at times, especially around 9 1/2 minutes as the mellotron floods in as well.

A good album for sure but for me it's flawed. Some really good sections and songs though. Check it out!

Mellotron Storm | 3/5 |

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