I’ve been a huge fan of Swedish sludge butchers Pyramido since their debut full-length Sand came out on Totalrust Music in 2009.  The follow-up Salt was even heavier and saw the band stretching their songs, riffs and viciousness into a technologically advanced weapons platform that was far deeper and more desiccated than any number of jams that Eyehategod clones could muster.  Don’t get me wrong my fellow sludge heathens, there’s more ain’t broke/don’t fix it stylistic bands than I can count that I love and am a huge fan of spanning multiple extreme musical genres yet every now and again it’s great to see somebody really molest the rulebook and take some chances.

Several killer splits filled the interim of time leading up to the band’s third record Saga, their most ambitious LP to date…a sprawling, hugely melodic slab of canopic jar stored sludge with complex songwriting that still hurled huge boulders of demon doom in its audience’s direction but managed to explore progressive 70s twists and glassy-eyed Swedish heartbreak without sounding like the 40,000 million bands aping Mastodon, Baroness or Katatonia.  The mutinous musical treachery of Rwake, Deadbird, Yob, Samothrace, Burst, Crowpath, Electric Horsemen, Across Tundras and Dark Castle came to mind with repeated spins, but Pyramido had the distinct pleasure of sounding like their own rabid animal from the first track to the last.  Well-implemented 70s psychedelic rock licks rang of German, American and British influence, while the melancholic melodicism of Pyramido’s fellow Swedish countrymen also played an important influence without devolving to blatant copycat maneuvers.

Vatten, the band’s 4th long-player is a landmark outing in their storied discography and the darkest, most moving material the quintet has penned in their now lengthy career.  Featuring some asylum escapees that have served time in Burst, Crowpath, Deathboot and Deranged, there’s no questioning the resume on hand here, although resumes don’t mean shit if you can’t get the job done.  Pyramido has been getting the job done and then some since their inception and Vatten is another record in their canon that’s going to be getting an endless amount of playtime on my stereo.  Expanding on its predecessor Saga in every possible way imaginable, there is no doubt in my mind that these fellas have reached their sonic apex on this behemoth of a recording.  Haunting, distinctly Swedish lead guitar melodies tremble with an icy paranoia somewhere between Katatonia, Burst and My Bloody Valentine during “En Linje I Sanden’s” introductory atmospheric workout with a scuzzy, sludgy rhythm riff and Dan Widing’s vibrant n’ gloriously audible low-end dives giving the textured deviance an oceanic grandeur.  Viktor Forss sends his sticks cracking through the snare like he’s harpooning the great white whale of legend with his agile patterns fluctuating through numerous hard workin’ fills that liven up the feral doom with far more strikes than many drummers of the style dare to use.

The guitar duo of Dan Hedlund and Henrik Wendel know the value of carefully shading in vast, open melodic spaces and when to cut off all escape routes with claustrophobic sludge cave-ins that blackout the sun and turn oxygen into a fatal dose of carbon monoxide.  These riffs are emotionally crushing with Spartan leads seeded atop a rich soil fertilized with life giving bass manna.  Those serpentine leads slither through burning cornfields of rural hatred, reaching numerous peaks and plateaus throughout as they’re always striving for musical resolution/completion while traversing the arid melodic textures with heavenly grace before the next night black fall of percussive tempests and stampeding sludge grooves spread blighted crops and Mad Cow Disease across every inch of the land.  Each elemental component of the music works together like the natural elements of the universe and the organic song construction leaves no singular pattern or theme for one to follow note for note in your head with each arrangement utilizing the element of surprise to slash your throat and hang you up in the fields as a human scarecrow.  This tune is masterfully arranged and unfolded; a common theme that pumps through every cell of the album’s lifesblood.  Vocalist Ronnie Källbäck fronted Burst in their early days (singing on the first EP) and his deer-gutting, higher-end scream veers wildly into feelings of pain, sorrow, regret and severe sanity loss.  What he spares in stylistic variation, he more than makes up for it in the sheer shard cut vocal bleedout he brings to this stellar opening cut.

“Att Bida Sin Tid” embellishes a dirt road riff full of gravelly sludge bends that allow plenty of room for heartbreaking, 70s blues leads filtered through Swedish ambience to shine brightly and penetrate the overcast skies.  Ronnie’s ripped raw vocals keep the attack angle in full focus with the bass guitar hunkering down deep beneath the riffage as Forss works the pocket in bursts of jazzy snare triplets, traditional blues timekeeping and climactic stickbreakers swung from way back.  The music conjures up real lonely mental imagery of times gone by and the perils of the great explorers who journeyed the Earth in its infancy.  Harmonized guitars beef up into gross metric sludge and then slowly eliminate all traces of aggression as the volume fades into a reflective, rippling pool of serene psychedelia that showcases just how much Pyramido have progressed in terms of both songwriting and atmospheric expressionism.  This shit’s got soul in spades.  Sullen, dipping bass lines hooked me on “Tempus” from the very first burden dragging groove…there’s something Tool-esque about it, that is if Tool had any memory of what it’s like composing rhythms that both menace and uplift in the same last gasp (just my opinion here).  It’s kinda that straight-down, shipwrecked aquatic terror Isis embraced on Celestial and Oceanic respectively, but these psychos soon splatter the crew’s blood in every direction as skin-cleaving sludge riffs shear skin from bone, stop/start rhythmic grooves give the bowels a good twisting and the vocals tear the bottom of a reef like a dragging anchor.  Trippy, winding, high-frequency guitar melodies intersect the hypnotic bass repetitions and lend a tuneful strangeness to some of the record’s ugliest, most primal sludge, creating a Hydra-headed beast hellbent on feasting ravenously upon its listener’s innards.

A machinated, mechanized polyrhythm deliberately layers on the sediment shaking beats faster and faster while a begotten crystalized guitar lick settles in lockstep with a doom-y underlying riff as “Aktion” phases in like a specter from an otherworldly realm.  Sun-singed sludge grooves lay waste to everything with the bass guitar playing an equal role in the seething riffage shakedown.  Ragged vocal screams are entombed in a sarcophagus and emitted from 1,000 feet below the desert sand.  Again those wayward wandering lead guitars are welded to walking, roaming bass lines for a propulsive forward push that is not only elegant but triumphantly heavy.  It’s somewhat similar to Hull’s work on Sole Lord but the compositional strength delivers even more decisive blows and the production sees that every instrumental tone is mightier and more well-built than the great Sphinx without sacrificing rawness or coming off as overproduced.  Other unusual flickers of sound mark Pyramido’s temple walls like hieroglyphics and in this case the language seems to make some references to Amorphis’ Tales from the 1,000 Lakes (it’s gotta be something to do with the way those forlorn lead licks cycle and overlap the uglier, bottom-heavy doom trudges) flowing into a tributary of amphibious, swollen at the gills sludge.  A twang-y, reverbed slide guitar submerged in watery echo spirals closer “En Rak Linje” into a God slaying, downtempo sludge groove with all sorts of melodic subtleties carved into its granite face.  Sweeping psychedelic leads, fuzzy planet devouring low-end suction, steadfast thunderfuck drum plods and a grizzled Old Western feel in those forest uprooting blues-doom riffs conjure up a song that’s literally a Man of a Thousand Faces like Lon Chaney himself.  Quite frankly, the decrepit desolate atmosphere sounds like nobody else out there and has the potential to be shoot you in the back unfriendly one minute and then deep breathing n’ peaceful the next while never losing the nerve-shattering sludge tension throughout.

Am I goddamn crazy (well, I am) or are these last couple of years some of the best ever for the sludge/doom genre?  2016 has really stepped up to the plate with one awesome release after another and Pyramido’s Vatten is yet another no-brainer buy for dedicated fans of the genre, as well as another easy inclusion for my year end album list.  I’m in love with everything about this record; the playing, the arranging, the production, the writing, the anger, the tranquility…everything…  It’s great to see one of my favorite sludge bands still going stronger than ever and it’s even cooler to see them venturing out into completely new and progressive pastures of their sound without sounding like that semi-prog/semi-thrash version of sludge that’s been getting played into the ground.  This is another highly fuckin’ recommended gem for fans of the riff who like some complexity in their songwriting.  Gentle ears might not be able to handle all of the screaming, but that’s too fuckin’ bad!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
July 20th, 2016


Leave a Reply

Privacy notice: When you submit a comment, your creditentials, message and IP address will be logged. A cookie will also be created on your browser with your chosen name and email, so that you do not need to type them again to post a new comment. All post and details will also go through an automatic spam check via Akismet's servers and need to be manually approved (so don't wonder about the delay). We purge our logs from your meta-data at frequent intervals.

  • Duft - Altar of Instant Gratification
  • Amiensus - Reclamation: Part 1
  • Baron - Beneath the Blazing Abyss
  • Mütiilation - Black Metal Cult
  • Arð - Untouched By Fire
  • Kerry King - From Hell I Rise
  • Trocar - Extremities
  • Vesperian Sorrow - Awaken the Greylight
  • From Dying Suns - Calamity
  • Volcandra - The Way of the Ancients
  • Kosuke Hashida - Justifiable Homicide
  • The Dread Crew of Oddwood - Rust & Glory
  • Six Feet Under - Killing For Revenge
  • Skulldozer - Non Stop Ruthless Crushing
  • Synestia/Disembodied Tyrant  - The Poetic Edda EP