[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
He’s a charmer, a prankster, an anarchist, a thief, a braggart and an inveterate liar. He also is foretold to unleash the ending of the world, his name is Loki and on this new EP Sieben delve into the mythos and makeup of this troubled -kinder souls would say misunderstood- misanthrope. Throughout the length and breadth of Norse mythology, this character has been a continual thorn in the side of harmony; oftentimes he has shown shocking disregard for traditions and delights in twisting up lines of logic to suit his own purposes. We won’t get into the grief he had visited upon Thor, there are only so many hours in the day.
An interesting choice of character for Matt Howden to study but one which Sieben are indubitably well suited to explore. Like the previous ep for Lithuania, ‘Norse’ carries on the band’s new approach of long form songs with two of them approaching 10 minutes. There is a hypnotic, ritualistic quality to this release which was hinted at before which now comes more fully into focus; those looped violins are with us here in the frozen North but there are other ingredients at play here which have been evolving slowly over time, namely, Howden’s own voice which has taken on a smooth sheen. It is as though he has channeled Loki and speaks in the third person for him. Oh it may appear as though you’re listening to Sieben but then along comes a track like “Ready For Rebellion” and the entire terrain changes radically.
Howden imbues this piece with a strident, militaristic tone all the while pitching his case in the nicest possible tone. Listening to the words, however, demonstrates that there is nothing his alter-ego will not do to attain complete victory coupled with total, unconditional surrender from any foes. With a sublime, inexorable grace we’re told what the world is in for; through the exultant music we are encouraged to close our eyes in order to envision this dubious end. You see, for all the envy and avarice Loki is often accused of harboring towards others he just cannot direct it in any sort of useful manner whatsoever; the ensuing chaos is generally what proves to be his undoing.
Unfortunately, the gods gossip just as much as humankind and therein lies the bane of Loki’s existence; I don’t pity him myself but others might which is the sliver through which he enters and operates. There’s a cycle here, yes, witness it long enough and you’ll understand why he winds up in the circumstances he does; no one likes a meddler, especially one so obviously driven by ego.
‘Norse’ does not suffer this fate, I have to say and despite it being just under 30 minutes there is no sense that any time or effort has been wasted. A palpable sense of malevolence driven by contempt is on full display with Howden’s playing continuing to confound and amaze. Through all four tracks on this he never loses his nerve nor does he fail to engage his audience to the fullest level possible ah but you want more eh, well then read on… this is the second movement which will conclude with a third EP after which the long form pieces will be collected in 2016 to form a new full length entitled ‘The Old Magic’. It’s a cunning method Matt employs to retain the attention of his fans (truth be told we’re along for the ride no matter what he does) and one which I have no doubt will result in a new peak being reached by Sieben.