One of those rare artists who gets better with each release, Susanna is joined again by partner and producer Helge Sten (Deathprod), and a new band of Norse whippersnappers - The Brotherhood of Our Lady - for a soaring suite inspired by Hieronymus Bosch. While Susanna’s vocals and song-writing channel Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Tori Amos and Diamond Galas, the musical palette is wonderfully singular, with sophisticated piano and string arrangements riddled with unconventional details. In the loveliest sense this is an album both my folk-loving mother and I could enthuse about.
"The incredible, ahead-of-its-time art of medieval Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch bears strong comparison with the music of Norwegian artist Susanna. Visionary, disturbing, spiritual; vivid images of darkness and light, good and evil, heaven and hell and the folly of mankind. Like her songs, Bosch’s iconic images range from the panoramic to the intimate, and express bliss, torment and tortuous inner conflicts.
On Garden of Earthly Delights, her 13th album, Susanna takes a selection of Bosch’s paintings as starting points for a fervent, poetic rosary of fantastical songs and stories. Tracks like ‘Gluttony and Lust’, ‘Death and the Miser’ and ‘Ship of Fools’, reflect Bosch’s depictions of sin and human weakness, while ‘Wayfarer’, ‘Ecstasy’ and ‘Beautiful Life’ suggest the transcendent search for spiritual rewards.
Originally a commissioned work for the Vossajazz Festival 2017, Garden of Earthly Delights ranges from soul searching balladry to sonorous electronic expanses. Some listeners might catch echoes of the melodic range of Joni Mitchell, the confessional darkness of Nina Simone and the traumatised intensity of Diamanda Galas, filtered through a medieval folk and modern experimental sensibility. But there’s no mistaking the powerful, questing clarity of Susanna’s distinctive voice, and the core of symbolic imagery she draws on from ancient mythology via medieval mysticism to present-day consumer society.
Accompanying her own wanderings on vocals, piano and electronics, Susanna assembled The Brotherhood of Our Lady, a new group (named after the religious organisation that sponsored Bosch) drawn from Norway’s current dynamic, young and open minded music scene, with members of bands like Skadedyr, Stina Stjern, Listen to Girl and Propan. The album was recorded in the extraordinary Ocean Sound Studio on the Northwest coast of Norway, a fully equipped wooden hut that sits on a rocky outcrop at the edge of the sea. All programming and production was done by Susanna and regular partner Helge Sten (Supersilent, Deathprod), with mixing by Andrew Scheps (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Lana Del Rey, First Aid Kit, etc). The team and the wild location extract some of Susanna’s spookiest and richest sonic performances to date, with a vivid range of colours to match Bosch’s extravagant imagery.”