By Dr. Abner Mality

Every now and then, I encounter something I wasn't expecting that manages to turn my world upside down. Djerv from Norway is 2012's entrant into that sweepstakes. A lot of the power of Djerv can be chalked up to the phenomenal female vocals of one Agnete Kjolsrud. WOW! This is one scary lady...not just scary looking, but possessing talent that would have most other rock chicks crying their eyes out in frustration. What a voice!

So. Is Djerv another in the endless line of "evening gown metal" acts? No, indeed, they are not! The pop factor is certainly present with these guys and their music is frighteningly accessible, but they have a very dark and metallic tone as well. There is even a hint of black metal in the band's approach and indeed, Agnete has worked with Dimmu Borgir while other Djerv members have played in Trelldom. But their tunes are just so, SO catchy! Agnete is kind of like the evil version of Gwen Stefani from No Doubt but with twice the lungpower and 100 times the malice! The album opens with "Madman" and a scream from Agnete that would even send Gaahl and Shagrath scurrying for cover. That tune is a heavy but bouncy bit of dark pop metal, ear-friendly and crunchy in equal measure. That's the big single for the album, but I actually prefer second cut "The Bowling Pin"'s heavier and faster yet still poppy and tasty. By the time the chunky and choppy riffing of "Headstone" kicks in, I'm sitting in my La-Z-Boy with my jaw on the ground!

And so it goes. Each track has a different approach and different flavor to it, but from the nine tracks, only "Only I Exist" veers outside metal/hard rock with its keyboard-centered approach...yet Agnete's vocals are still compelling. "Gruesome Twosome" is devilishly addictive goth--tinged metal, "Ladder To the Moon" is catchy hard rock, "Abmuse" is complex and layered, "Blind The Heat" is more aggressive and "Immortal" begins with perhaps the most black metallish surge of all the tunes.

The whole thing sounds great, too...perfectly produced by Matt Hyde and sounding as big and booming as a squad of fighter jets breaking the sound barrier. The pop edge of this can't be denied, but neither can its metal soul. A breakthrough band...pick this up and join me in shock!!!