Although I considered Carptree’s previous album Insekt (2008) to be one of that year’s best, even I had to admit it was a pretty dark series of songs. The combination of orchestral arrangements, disturbing synth leads and effects, occasional bursts of metallic crunch interspersed in the most unexpected places, and vocalist Niclas Flinck’s almost placid delivery gave first-time listeners no ledge to hang on to, and as a fan of the band, my exhortations to just let go and give in were seldom taken up.
I have no doubt the same will occur with the band’s latest Nymf. While shorter (only clocking in at the mid-40 minute mark, unheard of in prog circles lately), it carries no less weight behind it and might very well be even darker. Using insects and, specifically, dragonflies as the iconography at play, Flinck and Carl Westholm (keyboards, primary music writer) comment on human nature in backward ways. “Kicking and Collecting,” while on the surface being about an observer, is more about the effect of the observer on the observed, and how our presence, even if not intentionally destructive, can have negative ramifications.
The centerpiece of the album is “Dragonfly” and is the most direct of the tracks, the statement being ‘what’s so great about being a mammal?’ On it, Flinck sings about the supposed qualities of human ancestors, and of how humans seem to have retained the worst aspects of our evolutionary forebears, from marauding humpback whales to dolphins that play with their prey to death, to chimpanzees in one of the bleaker verses:
Amusing climber, looking like me / A funny relative, a chimpanzee on a killing spree / Waging wars and sleeping / Gathers fruit and kill / Sits down with his brother / Share their cousin’s flesh / Fly, dragonfly – can’t be accused of being close to human…
The album closes with one of the most beautiful tracks Flinck and Westholm have ever written, certainly one of the least dire since Superhero (2007), “The Water,” and once the track had finished, I was shocked the album was too. Perhaps the ‘leave them wanting more’ ethic has something to it after all. Still, I can’t stress enough that this is a dark ride of a recording overall, but if you enjoy your orchestral prog rock, don’t mind rather gloomy subject matter and have enjoyed Carptree recordings in the past, the group has delivered once again.
Nymf is available from Carptree.com