Besvärjelsen - Atlas (Magnetic Eye Records)
The uniqueness of any heavy metal band can be argued as one part nature, one part nurture. To be specific, the nature is in reference to the sub-genre (black, doom, death, etc.), while the nurture is how the sub-genre is influenced by the world around the band.
With this in mind, while the nature of stoner doom metal dates back to metal's infancy, Swedish quintet Besvärjelsen are an outstanding band in the sub-genre thanks in large part to their surroundings. Hailing from Dalarna, the band calls on the influence of the endless forests of their homeland and the isolation that comes with it.
The result is the band's second album, Atlas, an incredible trip through the wilderness of both the mind and the Earth.
Opening with the driving drums of "The Cardinal Ride", the tone of the music and lyrics harken back to the early works of Baroness and Kylesa. The guitar riffs of "Acheron" fall somewhere in the territory of Mastodon and Cathedral in terms of catchiness and groove.
While the instrumentation is excellent in its own right, the band's secret weapon is the immense range of vocalist Lea Amling Alazam. For proof, tracks such as "Digerliden" and "Paradise" showcase her brassy, mournful voice. If Amy Winehouse had a metal sister mentored by Tatiana Shmailyuk (Jinjer), that would be as close to Lea as you could get and still not be quite at that level.
For those looking for something a little more traditional to the stoner doom formula, fear not: closer "Divided Ends" is the perfect solution. At nearly eight minutes, the track ventures into psychedelic territory and is a must for fans of Stoned Jesus and Electric Wizard.
One of the best examples of the collective force Besvärjelsen has to offer is "Clouds". Between the instruments and vocals, there is a somber feeling though not quite one of complete hopelessness. Your heart is not shattered, but something is definitely causing cracks in it; did you say something wrong? Was it something you didn't say but should have? Or is it the echoes of a question never answered?
The Metal Mayan rating: 5/5
I can remember the times when just I thought I understood a metal sub-genre, a band came along and proved me wrong. Some of those bands included Panopticon, Batushka, Jinjer, and now Besvärjelsen (which, sidenote, translates to 'conjuring' in English).
I am floored by Lea Amling Alazam and her haunting voice that is so perfectly complimented by the rest of the band. "Clouds" brought forth a feeling of epic emptiness in me that I remember feeling the first time I heard "One Rode to Asa Bay" by the late great Bathory. I dare say fans of Sigur Ros will be impressed by this track as well.
While I don't partake in substances these days, the ability to take me a trip sober and from the comfort of my desk is incredible. And yet, this sensational band from Sweden did just that, and I guarantee they will for you too.
Visit your favorite record store and pick up a copy of Atlas, out 27 May on Magnetic Eye Records.
Advance copy courtesy of Secret Service PR and Magnetic Eye Records