Album Review: Denormal – Detached

Denormal is a swedish project born from the brains of Per Broberg and Jimmy Sterner back in 2012. But a couple of years and probably a couple of nervous breakdowns were necessary to finalise the album Detached and eventually release it in 2014. Though the delivery was long, the finished product feels natural as if recorded in one night.

This impression first comes from the private and confined aspect of the album, like a whisper in the ear, like a closed room. Of this confinement, we visit every corner, from the sad to the sadistic. 

A good part of the album is made of songs we could describe as physical, such as “Paralysed”, which feels like dark caresses all along, with a sudden upturn halfway, doubling the intensity. The choirs and high pitched whistles clearly drift towards Depeche Mode already, but that’s only the beginning. 

It is also easy to spot the stigmata left by Martin Gore’s sexually sadistic oriented lyrics in “Bleed”: “As the blade cuts through my skin, I’ll bleed for you, I’ll bleed for you”, “The pain is gone, but the pleasure stayed”. “More” unfolds itself as an intense sex song as well: “your body speaks, my body understands”; we almost wish for an alternative version that would be more heavily instrumental to reflect the dense content. Soon however, the track rises by the various sounds converging (Sci-Fi lasers, dark synth, mesmerizing beats and background synthpop melodies), illustrating faithfully the sensual explosion that seems to be one of the key threads of the album. 

These visions of luxury, we have them once more on “Feel” (the title kind of gives it away). “Feel” truly is the compilation of sensual moments at their peak “your body glows” “I can feel what you feel”. It feels like black velvet, soft and beautiful. 

Between urge and purity, the lyrics of Jimmy Sterner, even though sometimes wrapped into pretty metaphorical pictures, are easy to relate to. Sometimes obvious, sometimes enigmatic and flirting with nonsense: “there’s a light through the metal rain”; Denormal lyrics light up the senses and are as visual as the music. 

Far from being mid-tempo, Detached also includes dancefloor-designed tracks such as “Strings” and its trashy beats on some pretty electropop. There seems to be some part of accidental in Denormal’s EBM sound, as they rarely use the standard sounds and beats popular throughout the scene, yet it is hard not to categorize them as EBM. On the other hand, the vocals are monotonous, the sung melodies pretty faint, generally overwhelmed by the extremely low voice of Jimmy Sterner. The nods to Depeche Mode are numerous, and the ethereal voices thrown in the background while the obscure vocals talk about light and sadness call only one designation: Goth. 

So, gothic electronic songs about sex. So far, Denormal sounds a lot like yet another sex-centered synth-goth album. However, soon a new thread appears, unexpected: desperation, and a haunting wish for redemption. 

Songs like “Heal”, calling back to Depeche Mode once more, like an unholy, awkward prayer, sound like a faint call for help, soon withdrawn: “I’m not gonna heal”. “Fallen” and “Hope” also broaden the theme, and yet “Hope” brings something new, like a feeling of “you and me against the world” that could eventually be the key to the much sought-after redemption. 

Detached is Denormal’s debut album, yet it already sets the tone for what’s to be expected from the swedish duo: an album about feelings, good or bad, most of them way too intense, but no fillers. It sometimes may sound like mumbling into one’s shoes about feeling sad if we want to be ironic, however the album does not target the cool, sceptical hipsters turning all melancholic music into irony. One needs to embrace pure, honest melancholy to blend into the music of Denormal. Because sometimes, it’s ok to enjoy proper sad music.

Review by Marie Lando.