Oregon's Norska has been setting the underground ablaze with their unique take on sludge, doom, and noise rock for over a decade. While the band is certainly part of the city's long-standing tradition for raising excellent bands rooted in doom (akin to homegrown peers like Witch Mountain, Yob, Usnea, and many others of note), they're equally prone to wild experimentation, often veering outside of the expectations more orthodox metal fans might hold. Granted, this too is part of Portland's musical heritage, but with Norska it feels that pushing boundaries is a compulsion born of a frantic need rather than some sort of communal expectation, especially on their newest full-length, Too Many Winters.
There was an oddness hinted on Norska's self-titled debut that never fully reared its head, but could be felt lingering just outside the fringes. While Too Many Winters begins with an updated version of their barn-burner "Samhain," previously featured on their split 7" with Fister, this rendition displays a crisper production that enlarges the sound rather than removing the teeth from this essential track. The following song, "Eostre" teases at some of the experimentation to come, but the majesty and brilliance of the album fully reveals itself in the title-track. After four minutes of bludgeoning, sludgy rock, the band shifts into a lumbering sort of gothic doom. While it could easily pass as a one-off, this darkness permeates the rest of the album and is even apparent on the preceding tracks during repeat listens. Pairing this with the viciously progressive and unexpected lurches in Norska's assault makes for a listen that is deeply uncomfortable yet causes spontaneous headbanging in equal portions. It's fun, it's unpredictable, and it's inventive without fully breaking tradition. In other words, this is the stuff that careers are built upon.
Too Many Winters will see its official release this Friday on CD, vinyl, and digital courtesy of Brutal Panda Records, but we've got it streaming below to help satisfy your needs immediately. Give it a listen and be prepared to lose yourself to the chilling grip of Norska's unique and potent brand of doom metal.
Ben Handelman is riding the wave of regrets on Twitter.