Something a bit different this time. Besvarjelsen (“conjuring”, in Swedish, language fans) are a Swedish doom band, featuring luscious female vocals, and a vibe so warm and relaxed it’s like sipping a quality whiskey by an open fire during the deepest of winters. I’m a huge fan of doom metal, though to be fair I’m generally not a massive one for all of those retro hard rock sounding doomsters. You know the type: all cords and seventies style shirts and sepia toned band photographs.
Which is all the more reason why it’s so surprising that I’m finding “Vallmo” such an endearing listen, because this is an album that has a lot of inspiration from the likes of the Blue Oyster Cult, with oodles of luxuriant 70’s hard rock trappings. You like tasty guitar licks, only you prefer them to be played at half speed? Don’t worry buddy, we’ve got you covered. You really liked those spaced-out organ sounds on Candlemass’ “Dactylis Glomerata” and “From the 13th Sun” ? Well, there’s a truck load of them on these here songs.
Ordinarily, I’d really just shrug and think, “oh, another one of those bands”, but it’s fair to say that this album has its own identity. The first thing that hits the ears is just how goddamn low the guitar tone is: this has been toned down to stygian levels. The guitars have a Sabbathian groove when the band locks in: the outro section of “Return to no return”, for instance, channels prime Iommi through some improbable fuzzed out Status Quo filter, before locking onto a simply horrifying leaden stomp. Lea Alaxam’s vocals are excellently suited to the music, having a charmingly mysterious quality to them, despite the overall warmth of the music. The twin guitars mesh perfectly with the ever-rumbling bass, while Erik Backwall’s drumming makes the most of Bill Ward-ian simplicity.
In sound, Besvarjelsen come across like a much less poppy Ghost, with some fading sunset 70’s hard rock influences beautifully spliced with the actual bona-fide doom metal. I think it’s probably the pure doom elements that elevate this over the normal run of the mill retro rock outfits, as they add some much-needed menace and grit to the formula. One of the stronger tracks on the album, “I Skuggan Av Ditt Morker”, has an impressive dark atmosphere and hypnotic groove. The production of the album also helps with the mysterious vibe of the record; it’s murky, pretty heavy sounding and to be frank, more than a little muddy. Whether this was by design or not I’m not sure, but combined with the organ that punctuates the music, it really does conjure up a dark, obscure identity for the album.
All in all, a good album, and certainly better than a good 75% of similar bands. I’d love to hear this with a slightly different (and more clear) production though.
(7/10 Chris Davison)