Few phrases strike fear into my heart like “instrumental prog”. The potential for self-indulgence is nearly limitless, which makes for a subgenre largely populated by albums that sound like John Petrucci instructional DVDs with a rhythm section splattered over top. But every once in a while, we get an album to remind us that it’s worth digging through all that rough the genre has to offer, because the diamonds scattered within it are so darn shiny. Verraton, the debut album from Norwegian trio Addiktio, is just one such diamond.
Rather than writing music purely to showcase their musicianship, Håkon Sagen (guitar), Thomas Gallatin (drums), and Ruben Oma (bass), along with a trio of guests on keys, often vanish behind their kaleidoscopic songwriting. Verraton has a freewheeling lunacy in the vein of King Crimson’s THRAK or Shining (NOR)’s Grindstone, lumbering along with fuzzy grooves one minute, floating through a synth-spun galaxy the next, now flirting with blues guitar without ever fully sealing the deal. Look under the hood and you can find shades of all sorts of bands in Verraton, but Addiktio are never pigeonholed by any of them. The only exception is perhaps the sonic similarity to Shining (NOR) that Addiktio never quite shakes, but, well, Håkon Sagen is also in Shining (NOR).
Verraton opens with what I would not hesitate to say is the strongest song on the album, “Unelma”. The main riff is absolutely massive, swaggering and halting like Godzilla taking his sweet time in decimating a city. This sets a tone of brash, unconcerned confidence that sustains throughout the forty-minute runtime. It can’t be overstated how refreshing Verraton feels, simply by not being desperate to dazzle as so many other prog acts can be.
While this meditative cool can sometimes tend more towards dull than fascinating (“Tiikeri”, which manages to be both the most indulgent and least interesting track on the album, sounding like the band’s first jam session after Håkon got his delay pedal), more often than not Addiktio’s self-assurance gives us gifts like the title track: a seven-minute soundscape that jukes from the harder tone established by the prior two tracks in favor of synthesizers in every cinematic style imaginable. The lonely Blade Runner synths and the arpeggiated Disasterpiece synths swirl around each other for a few minutes, before uniting with Addiktio’s heavier impulses for a grand finale. It’s a dizzying track, sprawling and yet so tightly constructed that it’s nearly impossible to see the seams.
For all that Addiktio does exceptionally well, though, it never quite manages to feel necessary. The reasons are difficult to articulate, but they ultimately come down to a lack of memorability. I know that I loved listening to Verraton. I know that if I put it on again, I will love it just as much as I did last time. But with the exception of the main riff of “Unelma”, nothing on the album really stuck with me once I had stopped actively pumping it into my ears. To contrast to my earlier examples, I can recall the broad strokes of every instrumental track on THRAK and Grindstone. Despite the number of spins I’ve given Verraton, nothing’s quite stuck in the same way.
That’s clearly not a deal-breaker, though: I’ve listened to Verraton almost non-stop as I wrote this review and been fully engaged by it every time. If that isn’t the mark of a great album, what is? Addiktio have given us something fresh and forceful here, the kind of music that can only be made by outsize talents with the confidence to be modest. Verraton is a diamond well worth digging for.
Notable Tracks: “Unelma”; “Verraton”; “Painoton”
FFO: Shining (NOR), King Crimson, The Hirsch Effekt