Album Review: Normandie – Dark & Beautiful Secrets

If ever proof were needed that music is therapy, then it’s all here in Normandie’s third album Dark & Beautiful Secrets. It’s a record that finds vocalist Philip Strand bravely baring his soul through 10 groove laden songs and the result is an album that reaches uncharted emotional depths.

The first thing to note about Normandie is the sublime song structure that saturates each of the 10 tracks which comprise Dark & Beautiful Secrets. Every song is an earworm of the highest order that’ll slowly burrow itself deep inside your cranium. It’s a highly addictive sound…and should come labelled as such. That Normandie have this quality really shouldn’t come as a surprise as Philip has recently penned the Irish 2021 Eurovision entry.  Existing somewhere between Nothing But Thieves and Bring Me The Horizon this Swedish trio have picked up the baton from Hands Like Houses and are, quite rightly, running with it, and at full pelt.

The lyrical thread that sews Dark & Beautiful Secrets together is Philip Strands’s struggles with mental illness and, in a case of finding strength in adversity, he birthed an introspective album through self-analysis. That feeling is best exemplified by the explosive opener “Babylon” which features unrestrained joy that’s punctuated by quieter moments during which the band momentarily disappear, as Philip aptly sings, ‘down the rabbit hole’. Its sonic shifts mirrors that of mental turmoil, from the heady highs to melancholic lows and it’s an album that ululates and positively pulses ensuring that when the punch hits, it hits hard.

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Formed in Örebro, Sweden in 2013 Normandie seem to be master alchemists. They’ve a sound rooted in post-hardcore but with an arena rock feel and a vaguely pop vibe, and I don’t mean ‘pop’ in the dirty sense of the word. Songs like “Thrown In The Gutter” are rendered strangely danceable despite deliciously meaty riffs. Perhaps pertaining to the dark lyricism Dark & Beautiful Secrets is a long player with a distinctly nocturnal ambience; it sparkles like stars studding a crystalline sky above a neon soaked metropolis. Guitarist Håkan Almbladh and drummer Anton Franzon make a solid pairing and mix up tempos with apparent ease which allows Philip to veer off on wild tangents.

Both vibrant and defiant Dark & Beautiful Secrets is a compelling listen. It might be a bold statement for mid February but I’m marking this album as one of 2021’s key releases.

Dark & Beautiful Secrets is released by Easy Life Records on 19th February 2021

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