Below - Upon A Pale Horse

Below Upon A Pale Horse cover
Upon A Pale Horse
Metal Blade Records
The thing with me is that when some band professes to play “Doom” I only accept as “orthodox” the lamenting epic style of say Candlemass or Solitude Aeturnus and the like and rarely ever do I seem to enjoy “deviations” from that style – especially in the vocal department.
I remember finding a much lauded “doom” band from Sweden to be utter piss… and thankfully that wasn’t Below, despite me being a bit apprehensive before starting this review, since I had them mixed up. Below is a Swedish five piece that has been active for only five years or so, but both the albums they have delivered in that timeframe seem to tick all the right boxes. Slow, gloomy rhythms, check, lingering, sometimes lamenting but epic sounding vocals? Sure! Decent songwriting? Yeah… so what’s not to like? Nothing, I’d say… I loved almost every moment of it…
Think a mix between Artch era Fates Warning at their most epic, crossed with the atmosphere of mid-era Mercyful Fate, with a singer that’s both adequate and not so “extreme” in the deliveries as either the King or JA and I feel the description is pretty adept.
“Disappearing Into Nothing” starts exactly in that way and ends up more in the MF domain, with some extra weighty riffing doing the business…
“The Coven” reverses the formula, and when “Zeb” goes for a falsetto, King D flashbacks and parallels are easy to draw…
“Upon a Pale Horse” is slow and brooding, with Zeb channeling a great “doomed” performance, almost as if he is the commentator for the “Apocalypse”.
“Suffer in Silence” is a bit more prog, given the more direct nature of the earlier song, but the “sophistication” is mostly in a tighter riff and a few vocal ideas that seem to work greatly. If the JA EP was a lot doomier, it might have sounded something like this…
“Hours of Darkness” has a neat, somewhat, simple riff, which in turn creates some nice atmospheres as the song progresses and feels just right, tacked at this point in the album’s flow.
“1000 Broken Bones” doesn’t throw away the mantle of doom, but tips the scales a bit more into Power territory, at least in the whole vocal angle, somewhat reminiscent of a first two Solitude Aeturnus meets JA era Fates, with even a Jag Panzerish vocal inflection in there which is just neat.
“We Are All Slaves” (to metal I would add to quote Accept of old) has this acoustic intro that doesn’t really last long, before a booming riff barrage, followed by some MF licks causes a bereft canvas, upon which Zeb-ediah paints a picture of servitude with the deepest crimson and purple.
Ehm… who said that there aren’t great bands out there… Below do it all “right” and I have nothing bad to say about them. Fucking Bravo, Fucking ‘A’… may they long continue and they got themselves a new fan. Along with Sorcerer (SWE) and Mirror (CY) some of the finest stuff Metal Blade has put out in recent times… now seeing these guys on tour together would be a nice idea…