I had the press and links for the first recordings from this Norwegian duo land in my inbox this morning and though it did some of the things I really wish bands pitching their music for review wouldn’t do – forgetting that the recipients should be bcc’d and not visible to all, putting sizeable attachments instead of web-friendly images and the like – it had such enthusiasm to it that I had to click through and give it a listen and thought it very listenable indeed.
“Battle Elk is a progressive space/stoner duo from rural Magnor, Norway,” they explain. “Our songs all take place in a fictional world where warriors are mounted on elks and dragons terrorize the skies. We're inspired by old sci-fi and fantasy novels, adventure game soundtracks, loud guitars and Belgian beer. Battle Elk is Bjørn Marius Kristiansen and Espen Gunstensen.” They go to declaim their favourite Belgian beer as being Kriek Lambic, a Cherry-flavoured beer. Sounds delicious to me!
They’ve got a bit of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, if BRMC’s vocalist was Hawkwind-era Lemmy, a moody, heavy drawl that lingers across the four tracks of their debut EP, available from 25th September though they’re promoting an available from today single, ‘Charango Moon’ drawn from it as well. When they say they’ve compiled all their influences into it, it does indeed have that sense of a first effort, wanting to throw everything at it as though it’ll be the only chance they have, whereas from what they’re releasing it’s clear that it’s a project that they should keep progressing with.
But then, that approach does give the EP a varied texture, ‘Shield Wall’ being a heavy stoner salvo of an opening track that lyrically sets up their concept’s narrative, ‘Black Sector Highway’ shifting between robust vocals and strident minimalist playing and a more melodic, progressive folk, almost Americana, tune that feels as though its been recorded out in the wilderness with the wind howling around it.
‘Charango Moon’ is a proper single with a bit of pop sense, a bit of 60s psychedelia, and though it feels a bit underdone, the limitations of starting out and recording, as they say they did, in Bjørn’s “mouldy basements over the course of two intense weekends”, and though it wanders a bit, its certainly listen-again stuff. And ‘Mount The Elk’ has that BRMC thing going on that I really liked. I think these guys have had a great time putting this set together – more power to them – and there’s every chance that they’ll get better as they gain experience.