Some bands get stuck in a rut: they might make the same album five times in a row. Many times, the fans are okay with this, and there are certain bands that I love so much that I don’t care if they fall into this list. Gazpacho sometimes gets lumped into this category in my head, but when I listen to the albums, I realize that they are always trying something new, even if that something is subtle. With their new album “Fireworker”, however, the change is rather stark, though their signature style is also still present. This album represents a wonderful twist to their beautiful sound. It releases on September 18th through Kscope.
Gazpacho have been at it for a long time now, nearly 20 years. They come to us from Norway, which is always a good omen. The band currently consists of Thomas Andersen on keyboards and programming, Jan-Henrik Ohme on vocals, Jon-Arne Vibo on guitars, Mikael Krømer on violin and guitars, Kristian “Fido” Torp on bass, and Robert R Johansen on drums.
Gazpacho’s last few albums have all been great. “Demon” from 2014 was the first album that really caught my ear, though, with its dark lyrics and loud-soft dynamics. “Molok” (2015) and “Soyuz” (2018) were also both fantastic in their own ways. Each of them had something special, too. “Molok” had this ritualistic, almost blackened sound in it that felt both scientific and organic at the same time. “Soyuz” felt spacey and adventurous. As I mentioned, the band always tries to find a special twist to add to each album.
For “Fireworker”, the album feels ritualistic, but unlike “Molok”, it has these feelings of sacredness but also menace. The band utilizes choral vocals to give a sense of foreboding and peril on one track, even. The music is often indeed fiery in nature, and there are moments here that are heavier than I’ve heard from the band, at least in several years. While the band’s typical atmospheric and spacious artiness is in full effect, there are punches of color, risk, and warning that spin everything into a tizzy.
The music flows right into the lyrics, too. The concept behind this album is a sort of connected universe for the rest of the band’s albums since “Night”. Their albums often explore intellectual and philosophical topics, coming across as poetic and emotional, typically. The characters in their stories often experience tragedy, inner turmoil, and powerful transitions. For “Fireworker”, the band is explaining this by presenting us with the “space cowboy”, another term for the fireworker. This character is a deeper side of all us, an instinctual decision-maker that often overrules our senses and logic. And we often try to philosophize why the fireworker’s decisions are okay, why they make sense. Looking at the world today, this is a fascinating way to describe why some people act the way they do.
Much of this comes out in a loud-quiet dynamic that feels as if the protagonist is confronting this side of himself. In fact, it feels like something of a purposeful expedition to battle the side of himself that reacts in fear and violence. The cover art, according to the bio, is meant to represent the “cave of the mind”, and so one could say this album takes place inside this cave.
The album has only five songs. The first track, “Space Cowboy”, is over 19 minutes long, however. The final track, “Sapien”, is over 15 minutes. The remaining three songs take up about 15 minutes, too, so this album is still about 50 minutes long, despite only having five songs.
“Space Cowboy”, to put it bluntly, is a masterwork. This song introduces us to the inner battle of the album, while also alternating between noble choral arrangements and vocal musings. The song teases us with a climax a couple of times, and ends up giving it to us in grand fashion. To clear up any confusion, the second single released for the album, “Clockwork”, is actually a part of this opening epic.
The next two songs, “Hourglass”, “Fireworker”, and “Antique” are more atmospheric in approach. “Hourglass” is a slower track with lots of beautiful ambiance and gorgeous violin near the end that really sets it apart well. The title track has a folk rock side to it that I really like, and parts of it almost feel like a soundtrack. It gets fairly heavy, especially for Gazpacho. “Antique” is melodious and nostalgic, like an old familiar friend. The subtle electronic beat that permeates it gives some layering to an already beautifully complete song.
The final epic is called “Sapien”, a title that seems to indicate an acknowledgement of our human nature. This song is quite reserved, except for a few moments where the tide rises with power and force. In those moments, I almost feel this rock opera feeling inside of the song, and I love that. It is a beautiful track, though: one that eases us into the ending with class and grace.
I love this album. “Fireworker” has a great overall structure that makes each song interesting and appropriately placed. The band has sewn in sounds that they haven’t explored much, at least lately, and the results indeed are fiery and dangerous at times. Gazpacho has a thoroughly gratifying album here, and I think fans will love it.
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