While Norway's largest cultural export is undoubtedly black metal, its music scene offers much more than stab-happy nationalists and satanic church burners. Naga Siren, for one, rep post-hardcore in the countries capital Oslo—that's Fall of Troy and Senses Fail, with a bit of Glassjaw mixed in. This quartet sports a raw and frenetic, yet catchy and groovy take on the genre that manages to avoid riding dead trends. Their second LP Swallows Tornadoes proves with its proves the band's ability to not only revitalize '00s post-hardcore with genuine passion and evident songwriting chops.
"Keep Breathing" comes out swinging with Oliver Kimmel and Tarjei Kristoffersen's agile guitar melody cadencing in a bodacious punk beat and emocore riff straight out of the Armor For Sleep playbook. While it's reminiscence of the Myspace era is undeniable, with lyrics like "I need something that I can believe in. I just need some reassurance... If you leave today, who will take care of me," these guys are simply too good at what they do to be ignored. The title track embodies this even further as vocalist Emil Solbakken juggles grating screams with soaring melodies, servicing harmonious chorus, jagged panic chords and irate breakdowns.
Naga Siren has no problem with dialing back the technicality in favor straight-forward catchiness. "Clay" and "Discard Me" spotlight this overt melodic hardcore punk influence, calling old AFI and Comeback Kid to mind. "The Waves" takes things one step further with as a more accessible emocore banger, complete with call-and-response vocals, just like "Cunning Eyes" builds its harmonic tension to critical mass by injecting mathematical precision into the sad boi anthems of yesteryear.
While these guys aren't terribly innovative in their approach, their infectious energy still covers quite a lot of ground. The "Simply Fooling Themselves" incorporates jagged riffage into palatable melodies, allowing Solbakken to change up his vocal style based on where the song goes. He accentuates musical ideas with his raspy shouts and falsetto singing. The band never gets too technical, choosing instead to serve the song rather than their own musical ability. These songs are well-written, memorable and mosh-worthy, embodying the elements of post-hardcore that caused the movement to explode during the turn of the millennia without falling into dated tropes. "Anchor" ends the album with harmonic guitar riffs and good-cop-bad-cop vocals reminiscent of old Underoath, with Jompi Myren's impeccable drumming bashing the band back and forth between noisy breakdowns and an anthemic chorus. This band covers an impressive amount of territory in only 21 minutes.
BOTTOM LINE: It's hard to take the familiar nature of Swallows Tornados as an overtly negative attribute when the music they write is such a fun listen. Naga Siren wear their influences on their sleeve, pooling believable passion and dexterity into every song on this album. Even people unfamiliar with post-hardcore should give this a try, and anyone wondering what music exists in Norway beyond Burzum and Mayhem will be in for a pleasant surprise.
STANDOUT TRACKS: "Swallows Tornados," "Simply Fooling Themselves," "Anchor"
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