Norska - Norska [12-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Norska [12-inch] (2012)

Brutal Panda Records

I don't entirely understand the difference between Relapse Records and offshoot Brutal Panda Records (other than Brutal Panda is vinyl-only). But I also don't entirely care, because either way the sweet, sweet metal quality is high. Take for instance Norska, a sludge metal outfit from Oregon. The group's five-song debut 12" recalls Sleep and mid-period Kylesa–loud, hard and pretty darn good.

The sludge is strong with Norska, who drop thick, meaty riffs consistently. But there's also a slight doom factor here. Check out closer "Two Coins For the Ferryman," which slows to a crawl, pushing every hit to the max while still allowing a whole lot of space to divide the notes. Seriously, the stop-starts get so pronounced that song faked me out like four times when I first heard it.

This contrast makes Norska a most rewarding listen. While the collection is generally all about the assault–dig c-c-c-crazy demonic middle section on opener "Amnesia"–the often tempers all of that with increasingly slowed breakdowns, getting more and more primal as they go along.

Given the song lengths (five songs in 40 minutes), Norska manages to feel both substantial without devolving into filler. While it would be nice to hear the band crank up the BPMs more often, the bone cracking intensity that fills these songs cannot be denied. Norska has a knack for letting the hits ring out, not to mention building contemplative interludes into full on attacks, as demonstrated on "Nobody One Knows." That song just keeps picking up fire. In a year filled with some stellar metal releases, Norska is yet another worthy addition.