That sharp contrast between doom and hardcore is a known characteristic of this band and it certainly does make for fascinating listening.
How many songs can trace their inspiration back to Black Sabbath eponymous song on the band’s eponymous debut album? The list must be awfully long and listening to the opening Four Shrines on this album, the fourth from Finnish doom merchants Caskets Open I can definitely add one more song to that list. Of course half a century has passed and the concept has been modernised somewhat. The introduction sounds familiar but is delivered in an absurdly slow and ponderous manner – those listening to this on vinyl will look at their turntable worried that there is a problem with the belt! And just to exaggerate the contrast the faster section is absurdly fierce and steams along at breakneck speed.
That sharp contrast between doom and hardcore is a known characteristic of this band and it certainly does make for fascinating listening. Once familiar with the band’s style, a certain tension is created in the slower sections which isn’t necessarily created by the quality of the music itself but more by the ‘when is this going to take off?’ question at the back of the mind. Taking out that contrast can be dangerous though as can be heard in the track Homecoming where it’s just one long sequence of slow grinding chords which ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere and leaves you with the sensation of having spent the last five minutes trying to run through treacle. It makes you realize that writing compelling doom music is not as trivial as it might appear.
Amidst the painfully slow and the breathlessly frantic, there are a number of mid-paced songs – such as Tunnel Guard and Soul Stained Glass – which oddly have the same sort of declamatory vocals and chugging punkish riffs that Hawkwind’s Brock has been churning out for many years. The album is wonderfully titled and is packaged in a suitably intimidating cover (an echo of Samson’s Head On album cover maybe?) . For me, this album is a strange mélange that left me pondering the question of what type of music fan would like this album. Those who love doom might find much to admire but without the quality of recent Candlemass for example, while those who love hardcore might find the doom element stretching their patience a little bit. It’s a difficult album to pigeon-hole but also all the more enjoyable for that fact.