Danish heavy metal. It’s a branch of metal’s broad church that I’ve never been that keen on, for some reason. A couple of Artillery records aside, Mercyful Fate and King Diamond and of course the excellent Pyramaze and Theory (both featured in my Crusade of Power column) I just don’t seem to have been able to get the hang of it. Rising have certainly given me reason to rethink this oversight with their quite superb new record Sword And Scythe, which is set for release next month.
Although they are repeatedly referred to as being a sludge/groove metal collective, there are precious few traces of either of those genres present on SAS, thank the maker. Rather the band give an object lesson in tuneful heavy metal, sounding almost like Ghost on the catchy Renewal Ritual but for the most part keeping things far more simple, melodic and heavy. Just how we like it!
Ancestral Sun touches the outer reaches of prog metal, but does so in the same way that, say, Evergrey does. Complex music is delivered, but subsumed into a melodic, heavy shell which means the ‘prog’ aspect gets into your ears almost by stealth. Salted Earth is delicious, pompous doom at it’s most stentorian and majestic; simple, sparse rifferama backed by mellotronish keys which again give everything a progressive flavour without swamping the guitars at any point.
This is, quite simply, perfect heavy metal for those who still appreciate a traditional approach to song production and construction. Everything is layered superbly, building a wall of sound at once bludgeoning and yet strangely brittle. The heavy vocal approach in the middle of Salted Earth is the only point at which the band appears to be losing control; everything else seethes with menace yet never hints at going off the rails. Perfect control of the beast, in fact.
You’ll find yourself returning to the album and putting it on again and again whenever you get a spare minute, which is always a good sign, and there are three real contenders here for my metal song of the year; in fact I’d have to say the whole damn album really does approach top-five quality – great work, Danish brethren of steel!
Sword and Scythe will be released on October 26th.