"Through The Archdemon's Head"

By Earthdog

Swedish doom band Anguish have already been given the tag of Candlemass clones by some people but it is rather unfair and just plain wrong in my view. Yes, there is a distant similarity to the doom metal legends but Anguish stand out to me as being a band with clear influence's and yet sound like no one in particular. The music presented on almost an hours worth of crushing doom metal riffs sticks closely to the traditional doom metal values and yet, it sounds nothing like Saint Vitus, Reverend Bizarre, Lord Vicar or Black Sabbath. The one ingredient they have that is a Candlemass trademark is eerie emotion and sinister atmosphere.

The album is one captivating, monster doom riff after another which are all held together with breath-taking melodies. The one area where they beat Candlemass hands down is in sheer heaviness and slow-tempos that are ponderous and kind of awkward sounding at times but if you like levels of sorrow cranked to 10 on a doom metal album, this is it.

The vocals are not what I consider great in the context of the songs. The bestial vocal approach which is similar to the sound that someone makes while trying to squeeze out a big turd takes some time getting used to. Luckily there is enough variation within his style to keep it listenable but it still sounds like the bands weak-link to me.

The album starts with an intro which is the title track, 'Through the Archdemon's Head' and it is a gem, setting up the mood for the rest of the album. It quickly bleeds into the lumbering 'Book of Fox' and then the band pretty much get stuck in the same gear for the rest of the album but it sounds great anyway so who cares?
Oddly enough, 'Book Of Fox' is perhaps the weakest track on the album (even though it is a wonderful heavy piece of epic, menacing doom metal) as the album gets even better from here on in. Guitarists David Eriksson and Kribbe Christoffer Frylmark are masters of melodic but punishing riffs of doom and gloom and this album is packed full of memorable riffing. The rests of the band are no slouches either, drummer Ralle pounds and assaults the kit so the band is an incredibly tight unit.

While the riffs are memorable, there is nothing in the way of catchy hooks or grooves, the band is way too slow and ponderous for that but these songs are mesmerizing and hypnotic so that makes up for it. One of the biggest highlights is track three, 'When the Ancients Dare to Walk' which is towering, elephantine doom at its best. 'Dawn of Doom' follows on in a similar vein and next track, 'Lair of the Gods' features perhaps the only real groove on the entire album. It is the album's only upbeat moment and believe me, you need it but this stage in the album. 'Illusive Damnation' and 'The Veil' offer no real surprises but no surprises are needed really. The songwriting quality is excellent and these two tracks don't let the listener down. The final track 'Morbid Castle' at least offers some diversity. This is the albums longest track and also features the most variance in tempos and melodies. The track is excruciating, grievous, grim, and about as oppressive as doom metal gets but is a bit on the long side at almost 12 minutes.

This album is a keeper but it has one or two question marks, the main one being the vocals which are the love/hate variety. I can see some people digging this man's style while others will find the vocals just plain awful. I am in the middle of those two as there are tracks where they seem to suit the grimness of the compositions but at other times, they are just a bit irritating. The only other weakness I can find is the songs all tend to sound the same after a while. There are really only two tracks that break away from the meandering, trudging style but that is a minor gripe. If it is sinister doom that you are after, this is a "must-have" and if you think traditional doom can not come up with anything remarkable anymore, this album should prove you wrong. I don't think Anguish can be put on the same pedestal as Wounded Kings or even Candlemass at their best just yet but they come close at times. The moments of sheer excellence that 'Through The Archdemons Head' has are plentiful enough to make this an essential buy for 2012. This is a band to watch out for: the Swedes have done it again....9/10.