Svart Records are really firing on all cylinders at the moment. This small, independent label is currently home to such underground stars as Brutus, In-Graved, Domovoyd, Tombstoned, and if you use the search function here with Svart as the criteria, that’s just my recent reviews. Despite being based in a country with barely half the population of London, the label has been signing and promoting a host of quality acts that would shame the roster of far bigger labels. Sammal is another such act, and a worthy addition to the stable whose ‘No 2’ is also on my review pile
Unlike Sammal, Opium Warlords ‘Taste My Sword of Understanding” is not classic prog; it is rather an eclectic mix of crushingly heavy sludge doom and psychedelic introspection! Well, what would you expect from the mind of Sami Albert Hynninen, who in a past incarnation as “Albert Witchfinder” was the voice of Reverend Bizarre?
Within a single chord of opener ‘The Sadness of Vultures’ I was glad that in deference to my neighbours I had donned headphones; the bass was so slow, deep and rattling that it made the likes of Witchsorrow sound like The National Ukulele Orchestra (yes, that is a real thing) on speed; I’m sure if I’d pumped it out of the speakers the infamous brown note may have been somewhere in the instrumental dirge that could have served as the soundtrack of seventies Italian horror movie. Dragging itself reluctantly into the light of day comes the twelve minute plus follow up ‘The Self Made Man’, and added to the sludgy refrain are the powerful vocals of Mr Hynninen, sounding every bit as strong as they did in the glory days of ‘Crush The Insects’, his sustain perfectly matching the drawn out playing of the instruments, his clean delivery counterpointing and enhancing the dirty fuzzy delivery of down-tuned bass, guitar, and almost funereal drumming. Even the way the song seems to fall apart into a discordant mess seems appropriate to the atmosphere it helps to create through the album as a whole.
‘The God in Ruins’ plays a plaintively cried vocals rallying against the heavens against a simple strummed musical line, a delivery worthy of a Shakespearean eulogy, broken only by a positively cadaverous guitar solo. This is a truly theatrical piece rather then a song, and is something that could well be suited to that stage rather then the sort of sweaty club this act is likely to play if there is ever a tour. Whilst it may seem anachronistic in this day of the instant download, the track really suits the album cover with a print that itself seems illustrative of some historic tragedy.
‘Taste My Sword of Understanding’ is not a simple album, and is one that deserves repeated plays; it is not one to be played to create a pit; I found myself listening to it, eyes closed, nodding gently, letting the sounds wash over me, the instrumental tracks having the feel of early Pink Floyd in their bass heavy walls of sound. It is not necessarily and easy and instantly accessible album, so if you are looking for some hooks and groove to get you moshing on the dance floor, you’ll need to look elsewhere for inspiration. Likewise, to try and review every track on the album, which comes in at over an hour and ten minutes, would drag and drag, and with my limited writing abilities, possibly put you off this worthy album; individual tracks like ‘Mount Meru’, a fourteen minute epic lesson in doom is worthy of a review and EP all of its own.
I was unaware of this band before, nor the fact they have previously produced two other albums. However, on the strength of this release, I will be seeking them out. I’d like to assure readers that Ave Noctum is independent and unpaid, and if it is reading these days like an advert for Svart Records, that is just because of the unadulterated quality of their releases (and if any of the people from the label are reading, the Goatess show in London was excellent and after they ran out at the merch stand I’ve mail ordered the CD!).