CD REVIEW: Below – “Across The Dark River”

Below - Across The Dark River

Below – Across The Dark River

Not sure this is supposed to happen for a doom band but this new album from the Swede’s Below made me smile. Not laugh, but i was just loving being won over by the sheer unabashed bombastic approach to classic doom. Metal with a capital METAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL!!!!!!

Beautifully clean-cut production allows instant settling into the drawn out riffs of opener “Trapped Under Ground” (preceded by a wonderful burial sample), the clarity almost the polar opposite to the filthy tones of their doom brethren in Conan that I love just as much.  Easiest and always truest comparison is to the church of Sabbath, yet even more down tempo into St Vitus or Candlemass territory. They have definitely and deliberately evoked a sound that makes them seem far older than their modern origins, especially with Zeb’s vocals.  The retro-looking painted sleeve just enhances this impression too.

Below

Below

The singer could easily be a cross of Dio and Dickinson, vibrato in full effect, really powerful and every lyric striking home. Again, the subject matter of demons, death and dreams is so generic, some would say clichéd, but who cares? It’s these staples that make for great sing-a-long classics and indeed some of the more storytelling numbers like “Ghost of a Shepherd” seem more akin to Helloween or some other power metal theatrics.

There’s pretty minimal lead guitar work to distract, the focus is on the deep riffs and vocal hooks, although occasional layers of flourish are added through choir-like backings or reverberating heavy keyboards. Not quite sure if the simplistic doom pleasure wears thin towards the end of the album but it’s one that definitely draws you back into the darkness and the whole thing creates an epic feel without the songs even being too long in their own right. Given a sample I may have easily dismissed this as not being for me and too clean for my tastes, given a proper listen and being swept away with the glorious doom tones and atmosphere I can instead highly recommend it!

REVIEW BY: Mark

RESOURCES:

Official Facebook

Metal Blade Records

Buy Below’s “Across The Dark River” at Amazon.co.uk

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