Below
Upon a Pale Horse

Well this was a pleasant surprise.  To be quite honest I had never heard of this group prior to delving into massive quantities of new 2017 releases.  Sweden’s Below have been around since 2012 and Upon a Pale Horse is their second full length release.  Opening up with “The Plague Within”. The beginning of this album builds with synth keyboard lines that transition into some big droning doom riffs ending with awesome harmonies.  Vocalist Zeb truly steals the show and his pitch and vocal patterns should please any Candlemass or King Diamond fan and with maybe just a tinge of Geoff Tate. The style of doom that Below play is quite unique to me.  Maybe I was not expecting such polished vocals and how catchy the arrangements are. “Disappearing into Nothing” opens with an arpeggiated guitar line follow by vex and percussion. Lyrically focus around witchcraft and evil. Not breaking in ground here thematically.

The overall production and songwriting on this outstanding and I don’t know If I will hear a better doom record this year.  Maybe someone will recommend something that will blow me away but I will have to say I cannot stop listening to this.  “Upon a Pale Horse” the title track opens with a spoken word passage done by Alan Averill of Primordial which is quite well done. Gave me a slightly flashback to spoken word part on Primordial’s debut album Imrama. When the heavy guitar lines come in I cannot stop head banging. Then they add harmony and double bass.  Excellent build. Paul and Berg’s dual guitar work throughout is on point. One of my favorite songs on this one for sure.

“Hours of Darkness” opens with a gorgeous piece of classical guitar which adds some addition color and then the heavy depressing layered doom cloud hits.  This particular track Zeb’s voice has a bit of a John Bush undertone to it but with a way wider range. There seems to be a fine line between epic doom and power metal.  Riff wise I can clearly hear the brooding sadness. The relationship between riff and voice really is the driving force behind this record.  Again, I can’t emphasize how catchy of a record this is. If you have been looking for an extremely emotional doom record with extremely well played guitar melodies and harmonies with nearly pitch perfect vocals.  There is one spot on this tune that gets a bet for lack of a better word, goofy. “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah Yeaa!”.

“1000 Broken Bones” opens up with some riffs that sound like they could have come off of Samael’s Ceremony of Opposites. Throughout Upon a Pale Horse there are spots with guest backing vocals by Sorcerer’s Anders Engberg. The album concludes with “We Are All Slaves”, which again opens with some slow building clean guitar lines with vocals accompanying.  There are times on this one where it has a bit of a Nile feel. As many a death metal guy it feels good reviewing a band like this as it has taken me a bit out of my comfort zone.  You might have a completely different opinion on these guys but man I cannot stop listening to this. If you don’t like one song on this then you probably won’t like any of this and vice versa.  I would imagine fans of Candlemass, Solitude Aeternus, would be drooling over this. This is a winner folks.  Get this immediately! I am going to have to go back and listen to their debut full length because if it is any bit as good as this I will be a happy camper.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Nick K
June 15th, 2017

Comments

  1. Commented by: AR

    I’m hearing a touch of Tony Martin-era Sabbath in this too. And that is NOT a bad thing. Great stuff.


  2. Commented by: Jay

    Totally agree on the Martin-era Sabbath nod, AR. I’m feeling some Headless Cross/Cross Purposes riffer-y, melancholy and the vocals got plenty of power.

    Sick review Nick. Rock solid and a real old school vibe that I’m enjoying.


  3. Commented by: Nick K

    Epic Doom with Epic Vocals = Epic Album.. Metal as hell! Hope they do U.S tour. First album has Andy Larocque all over it..


  4. Commented by: Jay

    Hell yeah, sign me up for a U.S. tour. I’m sure these guys would be killer live.


  5. Commented by: Lal

    The debut is as every bit as good, so you should totally go and have a listen.


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