StangalaStangala are French. They are – by any reasonable measure – pretty bloody weird. On the face of this, they’re pretty bloody great too. If you manage to hear a better album recorded with all lyrics in the Breton language (no, not the one from the Elder Scrolls series, nerds), then I’ll eat my hat*

Ever heard a Celtic-folk rock band with a penchant for vertigo-inducing doom sections with weird, jazz sections involving (what sound like) Saxophones and Clarinet? Thought not. Put all of those things together in your mind, and you might well be struggling to place in your mind the audial treat that awaits you when you play this disc. In equal measures featuring the drench and dread of the fuzzed out sections of Electric Wizard, as placed through some properly dark filters (check out the authentically black metal terror present in “Hent Loar), there is plenty of experimentation going on here. It’s both a thoroughly engaging and completely disorientating listen. Perhaps the best way to approximate the experience – though this is completely reductionist to the sound – is all of the weirder Cathedral tracks – you know, “Voyage of The Homeless Sapien”, “Schizoid Puppeteer” and the like, but with extra doom added as a sauce. It’s pretty intense.

Vocally, things switch between hoarse, cavernous screeches, female haunting vocals that are allowed on occasion to echo on their own, and deep bellows. Likewise, the guitars have plenty of free range too, on occasion locking onto a fearsome groove, as in “Lutuned an Noz”, which is the closest the album comes to an out and out rocker, before the folky reed-instrument melody kicks in during the chorus to bring things back to planet Odd.

There’s eight tracks for your delight here, weighing in from just over four minutes, to some measuring at over the seven and eight minute mark. Given the huge amount of musical ideas and motifs here, even these can on occasion feel a bit stuffed full of riffs, and it’s definitely an album that rewards frequent, repeated attention to unlock some of the riches held within. If I had any criticism, it would be that on occasion I wondered if the production could have benefited from having slightly more “heft” on the doomier sections, with the production – particularly with the guitar sound – sounding a little too thin for my ears, but this was generally countered by the excellent and expansive drum sound. As a slight sound note, I really enjoyed the drumming on this – it goes to show that there are plenty of new ideas about. At the fringes of the avant-garde, the heavy and the folky, “Klanv” is a really special listen, and really very worth your time and effort in obtaining.

(8.5/10 Chris Davison)