Monday, April 14, 2014

Below - Across the Dark River

When it comes to doom metal, I seem to gravitate towards the epic/classic doom style that was created by Black Sabbath and perfected by bands like Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus. There has been a lot of doom metal released lately that was not my cup of tea due to being too slow while trying to be epic but not pulling it off well. To my delight, I found Sweden's Below and their debut album Across the Dark River. It seems that Metal Blade Records was introduced to this band and immediately signed them as well as brought to the attention of Andy LaRocque who produced this debut in his Sonic Train Studios. The result is some epic doom that is really good and enjoyable.

This Swedish quintet has really done a good job to pay homage to their mentors with this album as this reminds me a lot of early Candlemass but this album also has hints of Chapter VI era Candlemass as well. Don't get me wrong, this is not a rip off band because they do have their own sound. The vocals on this album remind me a little bit of Urban Breed (Ex Tad Morose) although he does not have the same power...yet. The riffs are just crushing doom metal riffs with some tritone leads that give off the hint of an evil sound that should be present in epic doom. The solos go from really good to great depending on the song. The opener, "Trapped Under Ground," is a perfect example of the crushing epic doom riffing and soaring vocals. This song is over seven minutes, as there are only a couple of songs under six minutes, however, they do not drone on but keep you interested. The choruses are epic and recorded to add to the atmosphere.

Speaking of the production, this is produced really well with Andy LaRocque at the helm making sure that this band sound the way epic doom should sound. All instruments are present and clean in the mix while giving the album just enough doom atmosphere to be believable. "Bid You Farewell" is another song that has that epic chorus and crushing doom riffing. The solos in this song are one of the better ones. The songs do have a variety of tempos going from slow crushing doom to a speedier doom sound with double bass drumming providing the tempo without sacrificing the epic doom riffing. "Ghost of a Shepherd" is one of the speedier songs that just crush. The driving sound of the riffs along with the soaring vocals is what reminded me of the Chapter VI era Candlemass. This is one of the shorter songs but is no less epic than the longer songs. The first single, "Portal," is a slower pounding epic doom song with massive riffs and great melodies. The solo in the middle leads to some eerie keyboards that would not be out of place on later King Diamond albums. Could be the producer adding his two cents?

"The Whitechapel Murderer" is another crusher that opens with epic riffs and catchy melodies that draw you in. The closer and title track is probably one of the heaviest doom songs I've heard in some time. The riffs are heavy as fuck and the tempo is slow and pounding. The 45 and a half minutes of this album go by fast but the songs leave their mark. These tunes will stay inside your head making this an album you will revisit. The melody on this album adds to the epic sound and makes this album all the more enjoyable. This is another band that I will have my eye on because I can only see great things from this band. There really isn't a bad song on this album. The vocalist, Zeb (Sebastian Jansson), needs just a little more control in his voice and he could be metal's next great vocalist. I am very impressed by this band and this debut. Seems as though 2014 is shaping up to be a great year for metal!


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