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Album Review

Anybody wondering what happened to Tom Waits after Franks Wild Years or Radiohead after OK Computer need look no further than Norway's Kaizers Orchestra. The sextet are about as far from conventional as one could imagine (Eastern European folk music filtered through an apocalyptic post-rock prism), so it comes as a bit of surprise that their third full-length recording bears the stamp of Universal Records. The cocky, gas mask-loving Scandinavians have always seemed poised to make the leap to a major label, especially after racking up the awards for 2003's independently released Evig Pint, but the prospect of hearing their signature blend of pump organs, oil drums, and staccato guitar get the "big time" treatment initially put a scare into longtime fans. They need not worry, however, as the resulting Maestro is nothing short of magnificent. A veritable slaughterhouse of ideas, it takes the Orchestra's formula one step further, bringing in the occasional vocal manipulation, heavily compressed snare drum, or weepy string/horn section to flesh out what may be the group's most concise and fully realized effort to date. While they remain true to their penchant for Tin Pan Alley nightmare music, the 12 cuts that inhabit Maestro veer wildly from genre to genre, taking bits and pieces of punk, folk, funk, jazz, and rock and shredding them to bits. A blues-kissed backbone sticks out on "Knekker Deg Til Sist," "Christiania," and the brutal closer "Pa Ditt Skift," while "Blitzregn Baby" sounds like a collaboration between Ennio Morricone, Supergrass, and the Misfits. English-speaking audiences don't need to understand a lick of Norwegian to identify with Maestro, as it sets a mood so universal in its volatility that even the most xenophobic listener will have no choice but to hit repeat over and over.


Formed: Bergen, Norway

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Norwegian sextet Kaizers Orchestra build cathartic rock songs that borrow heavily from the dirges of Tin Pan Alley and Eastern European folk music. Formed in the late '90s in the city of Bergen, the band consists of Jan Ove Ottesen and Geir Zahl on vocals/guitar/oil barrel, Helge Risa on pump organ, Øyvind Storesund on accordion and bass, guitarist/percussionist Terge Vinterstøen, and Rune Solheim on drums. Their signature sound eventually led to a record deal with Scandinavian label Broiler...
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Maestro, Kaizers Orchestra
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