Mental health, particularly in western society, is something that is increasingly being discussed, taken seriously, and generally considered to be an important concern in modern life. For a long time – certainly as long as anyone alive will remember – mental health had a stigma, and poor mental wellbeing was seen as weakness, or even madness. To suggest that this stigma is entirely eradicated would be naive, but certainly there is more willingness to talk about it, and societies are much improved in accepting a wider range of mental states, than ever in modern history.
This may seem like a strange way to start a heavy metal review, but it sets an important context for the new album by Per Fredrik Pellek Åsly, better known as PelleK. His new album, A Marvellous Method of Reclusion, is a collaboration with writer and lyricist George Andrade. It is a sombre effort, an exploration of PelleK’s experiences of loneliness and reclusion that was also influenced by Andrade’s own experience of manic depression.
The album marks a substantial departure for PelleK, who became popular for the enjoyable metal covers of pop songs and popular theme tunes on his Youtube channel, and whose original output has sat within a theatrical power metal niche. These influences remain very much present in the music, but the subject matter is far more deeply personal and sincere and the music that bit more delicate as a result. That he set out to make a more proggy and emotional album is quickly apparent.
This is, unsurprisingly, a concept album. It doesn’t follow a linear narrative, but it explores a number of different aspects of loneliness, coming to some powerful and important revelations towards the end of the album. Those who have experienced mental health difficulties, either directly or through loved ones, may not find the lyrics especially profound per se, but they are sincere, emotive and compelling. Some or the perspectives the album examines – such as the vicious circle of self-disdain that is hard to break out of – will be all too familiar to many. One of the album’s greatest strengths is in how it covers the subject matter in such a way that, although it ostensibly deals with reclusion, it is relatable to a lot of different situations and conditions.
The music, similarly, presents very little that is new or particularly unique, but it is solid and thoughtful, sitting somewhere on the prog-power spectrum. The album is highly melodic, rich in good tunes and with enough variety to never get dull. For those unfamiliar with PelleK, the most obvious influences on his musical and vocal style are power metal bands such as Sonata Arctica and Kamelot, but the album keeps these influences at a safe distance to retain its own identity.
Inevitably, some tracks are more exciting than others. Highlights include opener The Path of Reclusion which contains a terrific chorus, I Know You Don’t Know which deals excellently with the often hidden nature of mental illness, and The Space Between with its rich vocal harmonies. Penultimate track (and last full song) The Master of Reclusion is also notable not so much for the music but for the revelations that are central to the theme, and indeed the title, of the album.
A full release date has not yet been set, but the album is complete and available to pre-order through PelleK’s pledge campaign (follow this link) and well worth supporting (and also the quickest way to get the album). Art that tackles a subject as sensitive as mental health is hard to pitch just right, and inevitably not everyone will completely engage with this. But PelleK and Andrade have done an excellent job of addressing their personal experiences in a candid and sensitive way, and the album could (and should) appeal to many.