East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon by a-ha

Being an a-ha fan for a relatively short time, I was pretty naive in terms of the band’s incredible wingspan when it comes to genres.

“East of the Sun, West of the Moon” marks a confident change of direction for the band, with dark, daring melodies teamed with subtly poetic lyrics. My initial opinion was that the songs seemed defiant and brazen, determined to crush the low estimations of critics who branded a-ha a mere pop sensation. They certainly succeeded in this feat!

This album pulls you into its grip from start to finish, rather like a fairy tale which, incidentally, its title is based on.

A beautiful rendition of the timeless Everly Brothers’ ballad “Crying in the Rain,” raw, fiery power tunes that sizzle and crack with electricity, such as “Cold River” and “Sycamore Leaves,” the lyrically lead-weighted, lullabies “Early Morning” and “Waiting for Her,” the breathtakingly bittersweet “(Seemingly) Non-stop July,” as well as the simply haunting title track, provide the components for a spellbinding and well-crafted album.

I received a surprise when I was listening: the introduction of Magne Furuholmen on lead vocals. Now, Morten Harket’s vocal range is something of a divine miracle, but Furuholmen provided a welcome interlude with his unrefined, husky style. Paul Waaktaar-Savoy is definitely not to be ignored either, since his acoustic guitar-playing is the ribbon that holds together a simply brilliant package.

Although I am something of a pessimist when it comes to sampling new music and artists, I now realize I can only expect the best from this band. A-ha reaches a level of catharsis with this album, in both intellectual development and maturity. They take their gifts of whimsical storytelling, cutting-edge composing, and stunning vocals to create a magnificent gift for their fans. In my eyes, it is the sheer embodiment of talent.

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