So, you want to read a review because you have no idea what this album sounds like, right? It's not easy to give you any help...
Lesson 1: This is NOT Opeth, and this is NOT Porcupine Tree.
It's an album mostly devoid of percussion and metal guitars. It is more on the easy and lightweight side, but with a dark secret. The melodies in themselves are simple, the instruments and vocals soft and airy (Drag Ropes a bit of an exception). But of course nothing is ever as simple as that with these mucisians. There are unexpected sounds and twists betwixt these beautiful melodies. Parts that make you go: what the ...?
The first track, Drag Ropes (9.50), had an official release on youtube, so my suggestion is that you go there and try it out. It's an eerie and beautiful, orchestral and epic piece with a great animated video. Now when I listen to the song, I always see those images in my head.
The best way I can describe the second track, Storm Corrosion (10.10), is to suggest you think of Simon & Garfunkel. This is true for the first 5-6 minutes at least. What happens then is a rising... sound... that is creepy and powerful, but that I can't really call "music" in its strictest sense. It's a difficult transition for the listener to make, but as the album progresses you understand more about the idea behind this contrast. The song finishes with a return to the original melody.
The third track, Hag (6.30), is perhaps my favourite. It rises slowly from a dark silence with soft guitar tones and piano key-strikes, accompanied by Wilson's one-word song lines. It picks up a high-pitched electric organ sound and some more guitar melodies. 4,5 minutes in there's a 45 second long guitar and drum combo that feels straight out of Opeth's Heritage album, and that is the most metal you'll hear on this record. Then the track goes back to finishing off in the same style as it opened.
Track four, Happy (4.50), again makes me think a lot of Simon & Garfunkel. But the eerie contrasts are back. And the track structure is a bit backwards. It starts with what feels like the ending, and then in the middle comes what feels like a natural start to a song. Otherwise, a soft acoustic guitar is plucking along at its strings, sometimes accompanied by an electric guitar. Interwoven with this melody are what I can best describe as distorted electric machine sounds from an evil dimension!
Lock Howl, track number five (6.10), is a relatively fast-paced instrumental diddle. I guess it makes sense to make change the beat before the closing track, which is perhaps the softest on the record. I guess this piece feels somewhat that it could belong on Heritage as well, but not entirely. The acoustic guitar melody runs along with an electric guitar tempo in the background. About halfway in, the song pauses and picks up a new beat with clapping sounds and a queer psychadelic organ sound, then almost gets quiet with some soft wind instrument. Then it starts up from the beginning again with some additional sounds.
Ljudet Innan (10.20), a Swedish title that translates to "The Sound Before", closes the album. It starts with Mikael singing softly and low, a lament from the deep. After, an electric organ rises very slowly and gets an echoing guitar string occassionally joining in. Halfway in, an electric lead guitar adds a light melody and Wilson comes in with some of his soft vocals. Not much more happens.
The album journey from start to finish is soft and strange at the same time. Here are some of the more beautiful melodies you will have heard, arranged with some of the more difficult sounds to listen to. But these contrasts are not so much "in your face", and they don't happen often, to my delight. I wouldn't want too much weirdness messing up the beauty that is in here.
At first listen it will be hard to understand, but this album grows steadily stronger with every listen. Of course, it's nothing you would turn on when it's time to party, or if you want to feel the energy pulsing in your veins. But perhaps towards the end of the night when everyone's quieting down on the couch in the dark, or when you're alone on a grey day...
It's a great album, but of course there's room for improvement.