Saturday, June 27, 2020

Crushed In The Gears...

Malsten - The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill (2020)

Following up on their Torsion single from May of last year, the Swedish doom quartet of Malsten (which translates to 'grindstone', or, more thematically, 'millstone') have emerged more fully with this, their debut album. Leading off, naturally enough, with the song from that preceding single, the album gets underway on a horripilating vibe, with feedback and synths rolling out an uneasy tension before the guitar comes in with a raw-edged riff. It's a nice, broad-shouldered progression, and the band takes their time building it out for a bit before expanding things with the vocal incorporation. Should you wish to follow along with the lyrics, you'll get to explore the dastardly doings of the titular mill's owner. According to the band, this album shares only the first four chapters/tracks of that story; an uncommon approach, but the distinctiveness is well appreciated.
Through each of the songs (“Immolation”, “Grinder”, and “Compunction” follow, in that order), Malsten show themselves to be quite skilled not just with the moment-to-moment doom, but also at the larger shaping of the songs, and their place in the album as a whole. They're able to dig into a riff or rhythm interaction and tease it into something new, without it seeming overly indulgent or dry. The slow slides into relative calm, when they're used, are effectively offset by crashing returns, and their use of synth textures (courtesy of member Andreas, who's also the bassist) lends the music some engaging further dimensions. Bridges and breaks come through naturally, without a sense of over-orchestration, and the band's ability to keep strong momentum flowing through the various change-ups is one of the album's most impressive qualities.
Heaviness is abundant (and then some), but it's managed with an ear towards how it can strengthen the song, rather than being a persistent, unchanging weight across everything, as some doom bands fall into doing. The band also operates so smoothly with how its individual instruments come together, it can go right over your head how well they're playing off of each other if you're just grooving along with it. But they've definitely got the chops, as this excellent first album shows, and finding out how they grow from here is going to be very exciting. If fine-crafted traditional doom is your thing (or if it's not, but you're willing to give it a shot), do yourself a favor and pick this up once it's out. Pre-orders start July 3rd, full release is July 24th, vinyl is coming through Interstellar Smoke Records. Hats off to Malsten.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Descend Into Despair, Earthshine, The Fateful Hour, Heavydeath, HellLight


Saturday, June 06, 2020

Soot And Stones...

Chimney Creeps - Nosedive (2020)

Popping up from New York with this, their debut album, the power trio of Chimney Creeps (like chimney-sweeps, get it?) brings a seven-song batch of sludge-varnished heavy rock to the table. Flexing their style and rotating member focus on the instrumental opener “March of the Creeps”, the band shows a bit of grunge flavoring, but with a leaner, buzzier approach. It's a good foundation-setter for the next tune, “Head in the Sand”, which brings in guitarist Dennis Haggerty's lead vocals, striking a balance between punkish barking and moments of melodic harmonizing. Both the bassist (Donavon deCesare) and drummer (Alex Hadjiloukas) provide backing vocals throughout the album, pulling their performances in the songs that much tighter together.
As the songs go on, the band shows its facility with crusty riffs, big swells, dirty grooves, and beefy bass-lines. Keeping up a steady current of wounded anger, the group digs out old-school hooks and gives them a modern sharpening, while keeping the underground vibes well in effect. Things get a bit expanded in the second half, with the closer of “Diving Line” shading out into a number of stony bridges. Riding out on a big-finish groove, the Chimney Creeps make it easy to spin the album time after time. It'll be interesting to hear how their style develops with subsequent releases, whether they play up their dirt rock, grunge, or sludgy sides, or keep honing a fusion of the three. However it goes, if you've been in the mood for some audibly authentic heavy rock, you'd do well to pick yourself up a copy of this album. Available on vinyl and digital, both at very reasonable prices.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Alice in Chains, Funeral Horse, Pale Grey Lore, Rainbows Are Free, Sex Scheme