Zenon is a Norwegian rock group led by Filip Zenon Ramberg from Drammen, outside of Oslo, with contributions from vocalist Michelle Uller, and Martin van Houtum on bass. He is also a drummer with other bands.
I was attracted by their attempt to combine “writing for the present day and age…but also proud of our roots in the underground rock music of the 1970s, as well as our love and respect for jazz and traditional folk music.” To which they add “lyrics on spiritual and philosophical questions.”
That’s a lot of ground to cover on one five-track EP, ‘Arven’, (‘Heritage’ or ‘Legacy’)which was released on vinyl and on Bandcamp on 1st December 2023 on the Sekvens label.
“Imagine Ecclesiastes as set to music by a jazzy Scandinavian psych rock group”, they say. I assume the Ecclesiastes to which they refer is the biblical Old Testament Book of Wisdom that preaches the existential likes of ‘Everything Is Meaningless’ and that ‘There is a time for everything – to be born, to die, to uproot, to kill, to heal, to tear down, to build…’ and so on, like Rutger Hauer in his final replicant moments banging on about seeing places you wouldn’t believe.
And they do look wholesome in their promotional photo, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses that often turn up at my door, or perhaps The Waltons.
‘Arven’ follows on from 2021´s debut album ‘Passasje’. Filip doesn’t say too much about the psychedelic side of their work but a good example of it is to be found on the opening track, ‘Vitne’ (‘Witness’), which opens with the most doom-laden repeating single piano note you’re going to hear this year before Michelle starts moaning like she’s giving birth to a werewolf.
Thereafter we’re off into a guitars-led spiritual sounding journey similar to one that perhaps Trembling Bells might have cooked up if they’d been part of the scene around Haight-Ashbury in the late 1960s.
About seven minutes in it sounds like it is petering out but then explodes into something darker, brooding and gothic before shifting direction again and returning in the last two minutes to the single piano note with accompanying tinkling and which plays it out.
When I hear anything remotely cinematic, and ‘Vitne’ is in parts, readers might already know I’ll always try to suggest the images it evokes. In this instance the work would certainly suit any cinematographic representation of, say, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (sorry Kate, not you this time) or even episodes of the creepy, dark and surreal 1990s British TV comedy show, The League of Gentlemen, which unfortunately isn’t too well known in Scandinavia.
If you are a fan of that show I recommend particularly that you check out this track and the EP as a whole. It explores themes of family and tradition, which is what it was about.
Unusually I don’t have a Spotify track or a video to offer so here instead is a link to the full album on Bandcamp and which offers of course opportunities to buy the digital and vinyl albums.
Zenon have a short tour coming up with a release concert on January 20th at Kafe Hærverk, Oslo and on 31 January at Drammen Cultural Centre. For the live dates they will be a quartet, with Håkon Oftung of Norwegian prog favourites Jordsjø joining them.
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