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Mesa Verde (Norway) – Pickings for the Beast (single/track from forthcoming album)

We’ve had a couple of ‘end of the world’ songs just recently including last night when it became the protagonist’s pet project because he was bored.

And we continue in the same vein tonight with this offering from Oslo-based rock band Mesa Verde, a new band with its feet in two camps; pop and prog. Pickings for the Beast’ is described as “a euphoric tribute to the apocalypse – signed by the ones who passed on a ticket for the end of the world.”

I haven’t heard them previously and the promotion for this one, the first track released from the album ’All is well’, scheduled for an autumn release, promises “synth, lots of synth, and a guitar”. Then ‘forvent disco.’ I don’t know what that means. Forvent is an anti-asthma drug and you wouldn’t be on the dance floor if you had that ailment. Perhaps fervent? That might make sense. Or just a typical Facebook mistranslation of a common Norwegian word.

They go on: “Think 80s, but modern. Expect rototoms, not just one or two that everyone uses but five!!” (Rototoms are shell-less drums that are able to change pitch by rotating the drumhead around a threaded metal ring.) So now you know.

Most importantly, “Expect to be hit by an urge to dance you haven’t seen since the Dance Festival in Strasbourg in 1518.”

For all the gravity of their photos (in one shot they look like they could have been adherents of the Manson family) I get the impression these guys enjoy having a laugh.

Not at our expense though. The lads can play a bit and are highly experienced. There’s a hell of a lot going on in ‘Pickings for the Beast’; it sounds like three songs in one. Those synths are very much in evidence and we even get a Europe-style short guitar solo.

The rototoms sound like HIMARS landing on Wagner Group positions in Bakhmut while the very prominent bass is playing a symphony of its own.

Vocally, the singer sounds like a Norwegian Greg Lake with doom laden lyrics to match.

I quite like it but I have to venture that perhaps there is a little too much complexity? That can sometimes be the case with prog and why its marriage with pop doesn’t usually work. They are chalk and cheese. You can’t imagine Robert Fripp writing a Eurovision song now, can you?

And dance-prog?

While there is a strong melody the song lacks a clear, defining hook, which is why my humble opinion is that they might want to consider what ‘genre’ they really prefer and stick to it. ‘Generalists’ (and there were multiple other genres featured on their debut album) often get classified like ‘utility players’ in football.

Or of course, persevere with the present path. Who knows how that might pan out? It could be the start of something big.

Anyway, have a listen and make your own mind up.

The accompanying graphic is an interesting concoction combining on different levels bats (harbingers of Covid – not); squirrels playing with their nuts and white and black swans frolicking. That’s very prog, but I think we’ve had enough black swans for now thank you.

‘Pickings for the Beast’ was released on 12th May on Apollon Records and is available on all streaming services.

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