published: 9 /
In our 'Re;View' section, in which we look back at albums from the past, Erick Mertz refelects on Norwegian heavy metal/psychedelic rockers Motorpsycho's classic third album, which has just been re-released in a four CD box set
More than twenty-five years after formation, Motorpsycho endures not only as a titanic band in their homeland of Norway, but in the world of heavy music as well. Having formed in the late 1980s in Trondheim, Motorpsycho’s landmark record ‘Demon Box’ came out in 1993. The trio took their distinctive name from a Russ Meyer film (after an assortment of the B-movie director’s other movie titles were already taken). After middling around without much distinction, Motorpsycho began work on ‘Demon Box’, their third record that would eventually become the masterwork. Still wet behind the ears in their early twenties, the band ended up crafting one of the most ambitious records of its sort. Viewed as a double album, which was initially intended as running to almost ninety minutes but (cut down to 72 due to constraints), ‘Demon Box’ is a staggering hodgepodge borrowing from independent rock, lo-fidelity/basement folk, gritty punk rock and an assortment of heavy metal.
More than twenty years later the record still holds up as an undisputed classic.
The contents of ‘Demon Box’ are broken down into LP sides. Rather than partition off songs of like influence, Motorpsycho chose to blends genres, sticking 4-track acoustic songs like Sebadoh were recording, beside their scratchy, death metal caterwauling. The effect of travelling around is nothing short of stunning. The album opens with a harpsichord based, folk rock tune (‘Waiting for the One’) before ramping up into the harder (‘Nothing to Say’ and eventually metal (‘Feedtime’ and ‘Gutwrench’). There are some huge songs anchoring the record, ‘Mountain’ being the most startling, an eleven minute behemoth that alone defines Side B. The track is a grind it out, hard rock masterpiece that is structured like an Allman Brothers jam, long and spaced out, climbing into a cool ending.
Motorpsycho toys with genre and structural expectations frequently. They slide down for a blast of anthemic, NoFX styled punk rock on ‘Sun Child’. The seventeen minute title track (the longest on the album) starts out feeling like a heavy metal standard before breaking off for a noisy intermission, only to spiral back up again in reprise. The song is wonderfully confounding, forcing listeners to root around in the dank belly of ‘Demon Box’ and find conceptual hooks like disillusionment, estranged feelings of love and modern horrors.
The reissue’s third disc contains two EPs closely associated with the landmark album. The ‘Mountain EP’ is built around that epic track, showcasing a staggering range from grinding hardcore on ‘Flesh Harrower’ and more complicated, quasi-mystical metal on ‘The House At Poneill’s Corner’ ending with a tranquil ‘Sister Confused (Confused Version)’, one of the most unsettling tracks in the band’s entire catalogue. The second EP, ‘Another Ugly Tune’, offers a jammier side to Motorpsycho, containing more 60’s summer of love psychedelic influences such as on ‘Blueberry Dream’ and ‘Summertime is Here’.
Either of these EPs would be an apt introduction to Motorpsycho’s sound, and including them (as well as another CD of outtakes, demos and live tracks) offers an opportunity to explore a broader era in heavy metal and Scandinavian music history. The five discs (including a single cam DVD of their September of 1993 performance in Gronigan, Netherlands) is not a single sitting immersion. Rather, it’s a cool opportunity to bite off little chunks of progressive metal greatness and dissect little bits at a time.
Is there a blueprint to the ‘Demon Box’ period? Who really knows. That’s part of the joy in revisiting Motorpsycho - Seeing how much of the primordial genre of heavy music’s experimental spirit can be traced back to these morbidly fertile imaginations.
Have a Listen:-