Matterhorn – Outside
It has been seven years since Norwegian singer Tommy Sebastian Halseth (known from Atrox and Manes, besides others) started writing songs and collecting ideas for his new project Matterhorn. And, to say it right away, it has been worth the wait.
The result he created, joined by Edvin Matthieson (bass, acoustic guitar), Andreas Stunes (drums, keyboards) and various guests, is the remarkable and unique debut album “Outside”.
Mostly moody and melody-focussed, “Outside” is an album somewhere between art-rock and prog with modern elements and strong 70s influences. It doesn’t try to convince with pomp and effects. Instead, it is slowly carving its way deep into your soul with its carefully arranged compositions.
Varying between different vocal styles and instrumentations, Matterhorn add a different touch to every song – between the more dynamic and energetic opener ‘Outside‘ with its catchy Latin elements and trumpets and the rather stripped down closer ‘Døden og meg’ (Death and me) with its spoken word parts in Norwegian (performed by actor Åsmund Brede Eike), we get around 45 minutes of emotion.
For me, Matterhorn gets best when they are taking a step back and start building up their songs carefully and slowly. Take ‘Aura Noire’ which starts with minimalist instrumentation with strings providing a chilling background for the bleak lyrics and a chorus that gets under the skin with mesmerizing percussion. Already without knowing about the background for the song (Halseth wrote it in memory of his father who passed away from cancer), I felt a certain connection with the song, and with that knowledge, I connected even more, with my father having met the same fate some years ago. A beautiful but crushing song.
Matterhorn – Aura Noire (click here if the video doesn’t play)
‘Bruit Blanc’ changes the speed again with its brooding groove and drums and the howling Hammond organ – Matterhorn going full 70s rock. Again, Halseth’s voice and the vocal lines are adding that special touch to the songs, before it ends in a Purple-ish full-out jam.
Shortstop – we’re in for a total change again for the 8-minute long ‘Aorta’, the first ‘Matterhorn’ single and the unchallenged centrepiece of the album. We get another one of those carefully built up songs, one of the biggest strengths of “Outside”. From a fragile beginning with minimalist picking (of a violin, I suppose) and strings, we get Halseth singing in a deep and calm voice, as opposed to the higher vocals in the first songs. Eventually, a choir passage leads to a change of mood, slowly the song is gaining speed and culminates into a beautiful guitar solo, before fading out as it began. Halseth’s masterpiece!
The ‘Last Page’ with its Phideaux vibes starts the album’s second half and is a more traditional, rocky song. It’s followed by the laid-back ‘Oceana’, a ballad which we premiered here at The Progspace about a year ago. As Halseth says: “A sanctuary, a holding point, a place where you can lower your shoulders and breathe out, regain energy and surplus” – again I can relate. When tensions are rising and the city gets too tight, a trip to the (nearby for us, luckily) sea always helps. Gry Anita Sivertsen is joining Halseth on vocals here, a very fitting addition.
Matterhorn – Oceana (click here if the video doesn’t play)
With the more poppy, Beatlesque ‘Silhouette’ (again with female backing vocals) and the aforementioned ‘Døden og meg’ which combines more simple vocal lines and the spoken word passages with pulled-back instrumentation (and some tasty very Porcupine Treeish guitar passages) the journey comes to an end.
“Outside” is an album that breathes, that leaves enough room for the music to develop and take its twists and turns. With that, it has a somewhat light, airy overall feeling, despite the heavy lyrics dealing with humanity’s darker sides and at times gut-wrenching melodies. Just the right thing for those long Autumn nights when you want to take a look inside yourself while the world outside is going mad.
- Outside 4:56
- Aura Noire 5:26
- Bruit Blanc 5:04
- Aorta 8:07
- Last Page 5:49
- Oceana 5:58
- Silhouette 4:41
- Døden og meg 5:51