Karin Park and Kjetil Nernes of Årabot Credit: Olle Lundin

Norwegian noise-rock band Årabrot have undergone many personnel changes over their two-decade career, and front man, composer, and sole constant member Kjetil Nernes has brought forth a different phase in the group’s sound with every one. In recent years, his main collaborator has been Swedish-Norwegian electronic producer and singer Karin Park; they’re also a married couple, and live in an old church in Park’s home village in Sweden that doubles as their studio (though they’ve also made several recordings at Electrical Audio, including 2011’s Solar Anus, which won them a Spellemann Prize for best metal record). On the new Norwegian Gothic, Nernes and Park (who play guitar and keyboards, respectively) are joined by multi-instrumentalist Lars Horntveth (Jaga Jazzist), cellist Jo Quail, drummer Tomas Järmyr (Motorpsycho, Zu), percussionist Anders Møller (Turbonegro, Ulver), and bassist Massimo Pupillo (Zu). As the title suggests, the album is less noise-rock than romantic goth music, though it continues to explore the postpunk sounds and dark lyricism of 2018’s Who Do You Love. Several tracks wouldn’t feel out of place on a Fields of the Nephilim record, and it’s easy to hear why Nemes has cited Swans as an influence: Årabrot’s evolution parallels that band’s shift from brutal assault to graceful dark pop with 1989’s The Burning World. Norwegian Gothic contains eloquent, elegant hooks and excellent vocal performances—on “The Lie,” for instance, Nernes leans into his storytelling with utter conviction, while building swirling guitars all around him. He survived a bout of throat cancer in 2014, and he delivers every note as if it could be his last. On the epic “Hard Love,” Park contributes punchy, poignant vocals that counter the track’s crunchy rhythms. The uneasy, surrealist soundscape of “Hallucinational” revels in the ambience of the couple’s church, and the sharp riffing and driving drums of “Kinks of the Heart” carry a jagged, high-wire electricity. “The Moon Is Dead” has a smoky, futuristic torch-song atmosphere, with Horntveth’s swaggery jazz sax slithering among its pulsing, stuttering beats. Every Årabrot album is a journey through an unfamiliar landscape, and Norwegian Gothic shows that even at their most pop-forward, this band will always come up with something to haunt you.   v