NORMANDIE - 'Dopamine' Album Review
3. Flowers For The Grave
4. Blood In The Water
8. Hourglass feat. Daniel Winter-Bates
10. All In My Head
Swedish rock trio NORMANDIE return for their 4th studio album 'Dopamine', released 9th of February via Easy Life records.
Dopamine opens with "Overdrive", which is a fast paced emo pop masterclass. From the get go the guitar work of Håkan Almbladh provides a certain amount of grit to balance Philip Strand's clean vocals, which then themselves take on a gritty edge that works beautifully along with drummer Anton Franzon's frenetic playing.
Next up is the final single released from the album, "Serotonin". This song perfectly encapsulates the formula that NORMANDIE have perfected from past songs like "Jericho" from the band's 2021 album 'Dark And Beautiful Secrets'. The hook in the chorus is insanely catchy, powered from Strand's exquisite vocals, and will be guaranteed to get stuck in your head.
"Flowers For The Grave" shows signs of more electronic influences creeping in whilst maintaining that alternative edge to it. The trio provide yet another phenomenally catchy chorus with their infectious vocal harmonies. For me, this track falls into a similar style to the current sound of Boston Manor; mainly through Almbladh's guitar tone and mix of electronics, which is no bad thing in my eyes and I would love to see the two artists collaborate.
Following this is "Blood In The Water", the lead single of the album released on the 1st of August. Once again, Strand's vocals reach some insane heights, especially in his falsetto vocalisations, it is a very strong pick for the first taste of the album and perfectly introduced the themes of questioning what happens when we push outdoors and brains to the absolute limits.
Things slow down slightly with "Ritual". Our first look at a more pondering track on the album, the trio incorporate some orchestral elements, if you've read any of my reviews before you'll know I'm a sucker for alternative music with orchestration, and it plays beautifully with the vocals from Strand.
We now move on to "Butterflies", a dark and brooding effort with a great infectious bassline with almost a synthy quality to it. It's perhaps a bit more understated than other tracks on the album, however this doesn't detract at all and brings a great variation in pace to 'Dopamine'.
The pace is ramped back up with "Colorblind" - another brilliant bassline that carries a certain swagger to it, especially with the more outright aggression in the chorus and breakdown. All three members are locked in tight with each other and it plays to perfection.
We then come to "Hourglass", another single, which has an almost industrial feeling to it. It flows brilliantly from section to section, with Franzon's drum beat providing a great backbone. The ebbs and flows of the track ramp up with the phenomenal feature from Bury Tomorrow's Daniel Winter-Bates who provides a brilliant juxtaposition to Strand's crooning.
"Sorry" slows things back down again with an emotional ballad. This track contains perhaps some of my favourite guitar work from Almbladh; it's very understated, shining in its own way when it needs to and fading away to let other elements to take the spotlight. The production quality is absolutely phenomenal on this song, and indeed the entire album.
The trio go darker again both musically and lyrically on "All In My Head". A driving bass dominates the verses which is brilliantly accented through the drums. Strand displays some absolutely phenomenal vocal control, particularly in the moments where he sprinkles in some grit to his already impressive high notes.
Closing track "Glue" has an outwardly positive feeling to it, bringing in some light pop punk influences. To me, it wraps everything up brilliantly, with some near haunting gang vocals that work brilliantly with Strand's vocals riffing over the top to bring a more triumphant feel to the end of the record.
This is a brilliant follow up to 'Dark And Beautiful Secrets'. NORMANDIE have found a groove that works amazingly for them, but they're not afraid to stray outside of it, and I love it. I do, however, have a complaint about 'Dopamine'. I am not a fan of the "release half the album as singles" model that more and more bands are adopting at the moment. Perhaps I'm a bit too old fashioned for my age, and I do recognise the fact that streaming is the main way people digest music with a big focus on tracks being added to playlists; for me personally having singles act more as teasers brings an air of mystique to a full album release and make it more of an event, whereas we've been getting songs drip fed from 'Dopamine' for seven months now, and as a result have heard seven out of eleven songs prior to the full release. This doesn't detract from the musical content of the album in the slightest, but I do feel like it is a very ominous warning that albums as we know them may cease to exist in the near future.
Review - Gordon Rae