The Opium Cartel

Label: Apollon Records
Three similar bands: Roxy Music/Alan Parsons Project/Camel

Rating: HHHHHHH (4/7)
Reviewer: Daniel Källmalm
1. In the Streets
2. Slow Run
3. A Question of Re-entry
4. Nightwings
5. Fairground Sunday
6. Under Thunder
7. The Curfew Bell
8. A Maelstrom of Stars
9. What's It Gonna Be (CD bonus track)

Jacob Holm-Lupo - keys, guitar, bass, programming, backing vocals

Night Blooms (2008)
Ardor (2013)
Abandoned Tracks (2018)

Silje Huleboer - vocals
Lars Fredrik Frøislie - drums (tr. 1, 2, 4, 6, 8)
Bjørn Riis - guitar (tr. 3 & 8)
Ole Øvstedal - guitar (tr. 5) & bass (tr. 8)
Ina A - vocals (track 4)
Leah Marcu - vocals (tr. 7)
Maria Grigoryeva - violin, viola (tr. 7)
Ilia Skibinsky - saxophone (tr. 1)
Alexander Stenerud - vocals (tr. 9)

Cover by Glen Wexler
Mastered by Morten Lund

Released 2020-05-06
Reviewed 2020-07-26

apollon records

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The Opium Cartel is the brainchild of Jacob Holm-Lupo and he has done an album with Valour, if you trust the title and the cover. The cool cover photo was shot by Glen Wexler who has shot photos for Van Halen and Rush among others. But a valiant cover isn’t the same as a heroic album, and therefore I have been listening to what The Opium Cartel has to offer with its third album, is it good enough for them to afford lots of opium? Well, that is a good question and I am not sure what to answer.

Art rock or progressive pop is how it is the described in the press material and that is a pretty telling description, also using the similar bands will give a good direction on what to expect from this album. The music has good melodies, some really nice synths and things like that, good vocals too mainly from Silje Huleboer but also the other singer that we hear. I think the production is pretty excellent and they keep the playing time sensible even counting the bonus track for the CD edition. They have a relatively fresh sound but not so much that they will surprise the listener, Valor is a strong production by very competent musicians.

It is a competent album, a good album, one that I think can be worth listening to if you enjoy this kind of music. The best track is the ending CD-bonus track called What’s it Gonna Be, a track that gives this album a fine ending. But it is also one of those tracks that have you thinking a bit about the band and the album itself considering that it is a cover song and only as a CD-bonus. What is the problem with their own song writing and their own songs? Though, I have to say that ultimately it is a good album to listen to, the only thing lacking is something really memorable.

Valor is a good album with good songs, a fine album to listen to and will probably be enjoyed by those who like the similar bands and the genre. So, if you are one of those you should have a look at this album. It may sell well enough to afford them some opium.