Tuesday 29 April 2014

Below - Across the Dark River (Album Review)

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : April 15th, 2014
Label : Metal Blade

Across The Dark River, album track Listing :
1) Trapped Under Ground
2) Bid You Farewell
3) Ghost of Shepherd
4) Portal
5) In My Dreams
6) Mare of the Night
7) The Whitechapel Murderer
8) Across the Dark River

Bio :

In the fall of 2011, Below was formed in Sweden by three wicked minds. After a discussion about why doom bands of today either lacked melodies or tried to sound as retro as possible, they decided to start a doom band that would pay tribute to epic and dark sound of: Nightfall by Candlemass, Headless Cross by Black Sabbath and Conspiracy by King Diamond.

The original three wicked minds pitched the idea to two other sinful souls, who immediately understood what Below was going to be about and with no hesitation, joined the band.

Below started writing songs and in November of 2012 and a 4-track EP was recorded at Deep Blue Studios in Sweden. By this time, Tobiee of Howlin Owl Productions heard of the band and asked to act as manager for the band. The EP was sent to various magazines, labels and people in the business and was praised by everybody who gave the songs a listen. Metal Hammer Germany awarded the EP a 9/10 rating.

With only one, unreleased EP, the band was able to book a 10 day tour through Denmark, Holland and Germany as opening act for Devil from Norway. The final show of that tour was the Hammer Of Doom festival in Germany.

Eventually, the EP landed in the hands of Metal Blade Records, who saw the band's potential and offered them a deal.

Below recorded their debut album early fall of 2013 at Andy LaRocque's (King Diamond) Sonic Train Studios. The full length will be released during 2014 through Metal Blade Records. Belowoffered up the following comment on recording:"To have the opportunity to work with Andy La Rocque and Olof in Sonic Train Studios is amazing. It will be a truly epic album that will leave its mark in the history of doom."

Producer and legendary King Diamond guitarist Andy La Rocque added; "This is one of the heaviest bands I have worked with in the studio for a very long time, and the sounds so far is amazing! And always great to work with great musicians!"

A 7" split with Sweden's Anguish is also planned for release in November 2013 through Dark Descent records

The Band :

Zeb | Vox
Hedman | Bass
Paud | Guitar
Berg | Guitar
Doc | Drums

Review :

Sweden has birthed yet another Epic Doom Metal band in a few young metal heads that call themselves Below. Apparently the band was formed out of love, admiration and respect of greats like Candlemass, King Diamond and Black Sabbath. The band quickly got together and released an EP and started shopping it around. As luck would have it, Metal Blade Records would be the first label to jump on signing the band. Not surprising, Metal Blade are the kings of signing up and coming talent.

Below's debut album is entitled ‘Across The Dark River’, and while it's loaded to the gills with Epic Doom, it's also jam packed with a Power Metal feel in terms of the vocals. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear this were a Power Metal band, alas it is not. Lyrically, musically and dramatically, ‘Across The Dark River’ is a throw back album of sorts to the days when Sabbath were still making decent albums with vocalist Tony Martin. Lyrically speaking, it's all about the darkness, the horror and what lurks in the murky depths. In that respect you can hear and feel sincerity for King Diamond coming through. The album could also resemble a musical of sorts similar to Phantom of the Opera, where every track is placed correctly to carry you through a different act in the play.

Huge sing along choruses can be heard on tracks like “Trapped Underground”, “Portal”, “Bid You Farewell” and “Mare Of The Night; and as an old school Metal Head, I can tell you, this is a much needed shot in the arm in the Doom Metal genre. Musically, ‘Across The Dark River’ is as solid as they come in the Metal genre, tumultuous guitar riffs, well placed melodies and some blistering lead guitar wizardry which is also a plus in this day and age.

Every track on the album doesn’t get too speedy in any regard nor does it feel rushed or forced, the band just seems happy to bring you along for the journey making the lyrical aspect of the album ever so believable. Personally, the track that stands out the most to me is “The White Chapel Murderer” and why wouldn't it be, the story of Jack The Ripper has been told a many times in and out of song (ex. see The Ripper by Judas Priest), but none are as exhilarating as this track, the vocals are incredible, sometimes reaching the falsetto's made popular by Halford/King Diamond. The lyrics are mind numbingly frightening and the music adds the final nail in the coffin – sombre melodic riffs/leads and a back beat that could choke the life out of you if played back through a proper sound system.

Below have seemingly done a great job on ‘Across The Dark River’, they've successfully displayed their influences without beating a dead horse, they've brought the listener in and made them a part of the story and last but not least they've sonically released a great product. Then again you can't go wrong with when you've got long time Kind Diamond guitarist/producer Andy La Rocque twisting the knobs. I strongly recommend this disc/vinyl if you're into Epic Doom Metal, Candlemass, King Diamond, Sabbath, Savatage or any kind of music with a strong Horror theme.

Words by : Andy Burke

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