If you are a fan of the sinister menace of Interpol, the jagged guitar lines of Gang Of Four or the grandiose gloom of The Cure, here is a band which is a mix of all three but has its own unique post-punk aesthetic – Permafrost. The band consists of four Norwegians – Frode Heggdal Larsen – guitar, Trond Tornes – drums, Robert Heggdal – bass, vocalist Kare Steinsbu and one rather famous Baswegian – Daryl Bamonte on keyboards.
The name Permafrost is inspired by the famous hit from influential post-punk English band, Magazine. Permafrost has been in existence since 1982 but has regenerated its line-up several times until it found its present form in 2016. This self-titled, debut EP was recorded the same year in Braund Studios, New York.
Opening track “Sugarcubes” may be sweetly titled but this is not a candy-coated song of sentimentality, thanks to some powerful, ominous dominating bass guitar, obsessive, frenetic beats of drum and an abundance of spiky, twangs of reverb-laden guitars. Clashes of cymbal intensify the sound whilst the strangely endearing distorted keyboards carry an off-kilter innocence. It’s a really captivating and catchy song that is instantly appealing yet Steinbu’s cool, disaffected vocal conveys just the right amount of intriguing menace.
A stabbing screech of synth opens up the heavy-hearted, hopeless “Kingdom”. Steinbu projects the right amount of dark, detached melancholy in his vocal as shivery struts of bass initially hold centre- stage. Dense, rolling drums merge with waves of electronica and warped programmed vocals to create a heavy, synth oppressiveness. Forlorn, hypnotic repeats of the chorus: “This is my Kingdom, this is my world” are supported by frenzied, spiky guitars and solemn synths to produce a song so beautifully sombre and quintessentially gothic and gloomy.
A crescendo of fearless guitars fire up “Commitment”, the final song of this trilogy and it’s another terrific recording. The insistent groove of rich bass, indie rock drums and cool guitars give the song a joyous energy and it has a delicious, exuberant pop quality about it – reminiscent of The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love”. Steinbu’s strong Nordic accent gives the song a quirky tenderness: “A circle around, a fence and a tombstone/ Are you ready? / for a lifetime commitment”. The addition of scaling retro ‘80s keyboard notes in the chorus add a giddy, warm texture to the track and the overall sound is truly charming and charismatic.
The EP is made up of just 3 songs but each song is so completely different from the other. It would certainly be interesting to listen to a full-length album if the unpredictability and diversity of the EP is anything to go by. Permafrost has made an EP that combines the energy from post-punk, with cold, melancholic tones and wonderful interweaving guitar lines but have also given the EP a beating romantic gothic heart. A compelling and beguiling listen.