Review – Dim Gray – Firmament

“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest of times, and to the latest.”Henry David Thoreau.

Norwegian art-rock trio Dim Gray burst onto the scene with their debut release ‘Flown’ in 2020. Described as “Elegiac and beautifully dense post-prog from Norway” by Prog Magazine, it earned them many plaudits.

‘Firmament’ is that difficult sophomore album that hasn’t proved at all difficult to the three band members, Oskar Holldorff (vocals, keyboards), Håkon Høiberg (guitars, vocals) and Tom Ian Klungland (drums, vocals). All three have contrasting musical backgrounds in genres as diverse as black metal, rock, blues, folk and film music and it’s the fusion of all these influences that has created their own distinctive sound.

Having issued ‘Flown’ via their own Dim Gray label, ‘Firmament’ will be released on Big Big Train’s ‘English Electric Recordings’ label with Gregory Spawton of BBT commenting: “Until now, the label has just been a vehicle for Big Big Train and BBT band members’ outside projects. We’ve been interested in expanding the label’s activities for some time but only wanted to do so when we came across a truly exciting band that we felt had something new to offer musically. When we were introduced to Dim Gray, we saw that the band had enormous potential and were very keen to sign them.”

‘Firmament’ is twelve tracks of captivating, wide screen music featuring lush electronics, hauntingly beautiful vocals, string-infused chamber pop and indie-folk, all delivered in a grandiose fashion.

From the first notes and the enthralling charm of opening track Mare, you cannot help but be immersed in this utterly spellbinding and vivid musical world that the band have created. The elegant chiming notes that emanate from Høiberg’s guitar and the uplifting seduction of Oskar Holldorff’s voice immediately grab your attention and this just carries on through the whole album. The hypnotic Ashes with its strident beat and outpouring of emotion makes way for the equally impressive Undertow, a wonderful, slow burning, piece of music with the ethereal, wistful power of the strings at its heart, it is just exquisite.

There’s confidence and power to Avalon | The Tide, an irresistible force bursting with life that lifts you up and takes you on a musical thrill ride and it’s totally addictive. A calm and somber aura falls as you hear the opening strains of 52~, a mesmerising and hypnotic song that is also at times completely inspiring. Abalus | In Time has a breathless innocence to it that is beguiling. When the song blooms it becomes something more powerful and dynamic, almost becoming alive.

There’s a raw simplicity to Long Ago, the piano and vocals having a plaintive feel before the song waxes and wanes with a stylish guitar and elegant drums occasionally breaking the calm, a very moving piece of music. A hush descends as Oskar’s wistful vocal opens My Barren Road. Such an emotive song, it invokes feelings of longing, a yearning for the wilderness and the open road, close your eyes and you could be there. Cannons seamlessly blends art rock with indie folk, delivering a piece of music that just seems to dance across your soul with elfin-like wonder, something that exists on a higher plane and is always just out of reach.

The intro to Iron Henry is ghostly and introduces another exquisite slice of art rock, the piano and strings adding an air of authority but, despite the occasional moments of majesty, you never get away from that feeling of plucking at thin air, like its substance is almost intangible. Title track Firmament carries on that nostalgic feel, a graceful piece of music that tugs at the heartstrings with its wistful longing. Meridian takes its position as album closer extremely seriously, the elegant strings, hushed piano and thoughtful vocal adding serious gravitas to its otherworldly sophistication.

I was seriously impressed with Dim Gray’s debut release ‘Flown’ but the last forty five minutes has shown me that this band have elevated themselves to another level entirely. ‘Firmament’ is a magnificent achievement, twelve songs that ebb and flow superbly and sum up perfectly what music is truly about. These three truly inspiring musicians have created something that is prime and organic, their music can get under your skin and influence your very moods and my life would truly be a much sadder place without it!

Released 2nd September, 2022.

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