Below are an up and coming Swedish doom metal outfit, who's debut album 'Across the Dark River' has created quite a dilemma for me. On the one hand this will be one of the easiest reviews I've ever carried out, on the other it's proving rather tricky.
Its easy because the band's sound can be summed up in one word. Its much harder because it brings up music's most divisive and controversial subject: Plagiarism.
I have always had a fairly lenient viewpoint towards plagiarism - being brought up in the 1980's heyday of thrash metal when umpteen bands were - usually grossly unfarily - compared to Metallica. So I will try and keep the same laissez-faire attitude when reviewing ATDR.
So who do 'Below' sound like? Well they sound exactly - EXACTLY - like Swedish doom legends Candlemass (see footnote). Seriously, there is something amiss when, having listened to ATDR, I'm left humming 'Well of Souls' from CM's 'Nightfall' masterpiece.
All of which would make it very easy to just throw a single star in the box above and be done with it, if Below weren't so darned good at what they do. ATDR, although it's not quite as good as youknowwho, is an extremely competent piece of work. The songs are well crafted and structured, and particular mention should be given to the soaring vocals of 'Zeb'. Standout tracks include opener 'Trapped Under Ground' and the exceptional 'Portal'. Both tracks follow the monolithic riffing and epic, protracted formula that CM trademarked, but Below have achieved the formula with panache and class. Admittedly a few tracks, such as 'Ghost of a shepherd', sound a little lacking in spark, almost like the band are pumping out the doom metal format on Autopilot, and the lyrics are a little trite and hackneyed too, but for the most part it's an enjoyable listen.
So there you go. You know exactly what to expect now, and what the hey, although I can't give this any more than 3 stars, I'm going to recommend this. Candlemass are seemingly no more and why should their legacy not continue in another form?
That said, if you have a major problem with sound-alikes and plagiarism, I'd steer well clear...
Footnote: If you don't know what Candlemass sound like, imagine the slow to mid-tempo classic rock of Sabbath/Dio, but with a more epic, hymnal tone. Oh, and you need to educate yourself, fast...