Band: Somalgia | Album:Inverted World | Genre: Progressive metal, Progressive rock | Year: 2021
From: UK | Label: Repose Records
For fans of: Sigh, Porcupine Tree, Kesem
Records like this one are why I’m glad I decided to lump music released in December 2021 with 2022 for my year-end list-making purposes. I’m often in a bit of a rush getting my draft lists off to my editors, and trying to find new music in the midst of that is a fool’s errand. Somalgia’s debut album–Inverted World– was released in mid-December, and it’s a fantastic blend of genres, including progressive rock, black metal, trip-hop, and psychedelia.
Somalgia is an English duo who go so far as to label their music “post-genre.” It’s certainly a diverse release, especially as far as progressive rock and progressive metal go; but they’re not doing the stereotype of pretentious prog-rockers any favors with this sort of posturing. The lyrics are also a bit 14-year-old-who-just-saw-The-Matrix-and-is-now-a-conspiracy-theorist for my taste. The band has used the NPC wojak meme multiple times on their Instagram, as well as engaging in some 5G conspiracy. I get the feeling it would likely be unproductive for me to engage in political discussions with whomever wrote the lyrics.
Political gripes aside, Inverted World has a lot of fantastic music on it; and it’s situations like this one where I’m glad I’m good at just tuning words out most of the time.
“God Is Dead” opens the album with a gentle, plonking synthesizer pattern alongside a building black metal guitar line. The eventual main theme is quite melodic, and I like the juxtaposition of the synth lines against some technical, jazzy drumming (provided by Ryan Stevenson of the Canterbury act Zopp). It’s a to-the-point song which acts as a mission statement, laying out the band’s musical inclinations. Next, “Recalcitrant” opens with some of the harshest music on the album. The vocals are delivered in a black metal snarl, and the guitars and synthesizers growl right alongside the vocal. There’s a passage of martial marching music paired with nonsense syllables which is strongly evocative of Magma, especially Theusz Hamtaahk.
In contrast to the aggression of the first two songs, “Wonderland” has a gentle, dreamy opening. A fuzzy guitar arpeggio supports a piercing, beautiful lead passage as percussion slowly builds. Urgency does come to the music eventually, with distorted, wah-wahed guitar providing a hint of funky energy. By this song’s midpoint it has fully morphed into a metal piece, and the haunting keyboard tones provide a wonderful atmosphere.
“Consumer” is the shortest song on the album, and it has some of the most obvious electronic influences. The computerized percussion, processed vocals, and fuzzy bass are all reminiscent of Porcupine Tree. This is the trip-hoppiest song on the record. The vocal performance is strong, especially the parts without audio effects on them.
Weird, buzzy guitars kick off “The March of Tyranny” before blasting off into cosmic, black-tinged metal. This opening passage is propulsive and soaring, underpinned by a buoyant organ. The verses are more grounded, but no less enjoyable. Harsh vocals against relatively clean music can be a bit of a gamble, but Somalgia does it well here. Unfortunately, this song also dabbles in some unignorable COVID conspiracy, which is a pretty unfortunate thing to include on what is–in purely musical terms–a fantastic song and my favorite on the album.
“Dear Rulers” starts with slow-moving, liquid guitars and gentle vocals. The particular guitar tone reminds me a lot of Alex Lifeson’s clean sounds. The first two-and-a-half minutes or so are melodic and smooth, and that’s followed by a doom-laden synth solo which I’m quite fond of. The song’s last two minutes are scouring, trudging black metal augmented with all kinds of sci-fi keyboard effects.
Inverted World closes on “Final Utterance”. The opening is folky, full of acoustic guitar and restrained percussion. A guest vocalist is brought in here, and she gives a great performance. Despite enjoying her voice, this is probably my least-favorite song on the album. For a band which so openly prides itself on its strangeness, this is a pretty straightforward cut. I love the climax of this song, but not much stands out about the build leading up to that high point.
Somalgia’s debut album is quite a strong bit of music. I think their conspiratorial mindset is wrong-headed, and that’s on top of the general handicap of openly-political music often suffering from ham-fistedness. Taking all that into account, though, I can’t deny that this duo knows how to write diverse, exciting music.