The Violent Years - s/tThe Violent Years

Mandal may be the southernmost town in Norway, but if this debut EP from The Violent Years is any indication, it still gets plenty dark there. The band has been compared to acts such as Willard Grant Conspiracy, 16 Horsepower and the obligatory Nick Cave, and with good reason. The five songs revel in a southern gothic atmosphere that would have made Flannery O'Connor proud. Songs start off with lines like: "Caroline was the oldest of three/she ruled the world/and then she blew her head off." Even when the guitars get boisterous, the mood is unflinchingly solemn. It's hard not to think of small towns, hot sticky nights, deranged characters, and overgrown vegetation.

All that can get a little heavy, and at times it does. For the most part, though, The Violent Years usually find a middle ground between over-the-top melodrama and dull gloom. They're particularly effective in their use of piano to add both lighthearted moments and drama. There are passages on here that are truly beautiful. All in all, it's a remarkably mature, confident and very impressive debut.
- Nancy Baym