Below – Across the Dark River

Fans of traditional doom metal rejoice, for Sweden, the land of Candlemass, has put forth a new doom metal band worthy of note. I speak of the band Below and their full-length debut, “Across the Dark River.”

Listening to the album’s opening track, “Trapped Under Ground”, it is not surprising for Candlemass to come to mind. Below definitely pay a certain amount of tribute to the Candlemass sound; deep and thunderous riffs with a heart-wrenching melancholy work as pallbearer to the clean, melodic and emotional vocals. It is seemingly impossible to play this style of doom without giving a nod or two towards the masters of this craft, yet Below manage to do so without coming across as merely derivative.

When Messiah Marcolin left Candlemass the first time in 1991, I immediately began casting about looking for something to fill the void. Shortly thereafter, death metal and black metal came to prominence and doom was more or less left on the back burner for a while. Over the years I have certainly heard a number of superb doom metal bands, but very few that have carried on in the Candlemass style I love so much. Below pick up the torch and carry it with proud, slow dignity.

The production on “Across the Dark River” is clear and pounding in a contemporary style, yet warm in tone and nostalgic in its execution. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as the production was helmed by another master of both music and engineering, Andy LaRocque. Andy of course is the long-time guitar player for King Diamond, and has produced phenomenal albums from bands such as Falconer, King of Asgard and Mithotyn.

“Across the Dark River” should be a welcome surprise for fans of traditional doom. There is no accounting for trolls, and I don’t presume to speak for all fans of the style, but damn this is a mighty fine work of old school doom metal. I can guarantee that I will be listening to this album a lot; I recommend you do the same. Listen…Below…to hear the track “Portal.”