Being the traditional kind of guy I am, if you were to tell me there was a band taking the very best parts of vintage Candlemass and Tad Morose and expertly welding them together, you would have my undivided attention. Below is that act, and Upon a Pale Horse is their second opus of epic doom mixed with classic/traditional metal. Mystery abounds as to how we whiffed on their 2014 debut, Across the Dark River, but we did and it was a mistake we won’t be making again. You see, Below has that “Wow factor” we reviewers scour promo bins in search of. They write monolithic yet highly accessible doom tunes sure to captivate fans of albums like Nightfall and Ancient Dreams, as well as disciples of the works of Tad Morose, Lefay and other such traditional metal masters. Slick songwriting, wicked talent and a righteous ear for emotion and hooks make for a sure fire success, and it’s easy to mistake this young band for a much more seasoned, experienced ensemble.

Things take off steeply with opener “Disappearing Into Nothing” assaulting you with wicked doom riffs ripped right from Leif Edling’s subconscious. When Zeb’s (Sebastion Jansson) vocals pierce through the fog you’ll know you stumbled into a doom wonderland. The man has a big set of pipes and channels Rob Lowe (Solitude Aeturnus) and Urban Breed (ex-Tad Morose, ex-Bloodbound) in equal measures as he takes the solid doom foundation to an altogether higher plane of misery and depression. The song’s chorus is huge and far catchier than doom should ever be. Follow up “The Coven” keeps things heavy, reminding me a lot of the material on Tad Morose‘s A Mended Rhyme album, but darker and more doom-centric.

The title track is nearly 10-minutes but never feels it as the band delivers first-rate brooding, epical doom that goes heavy on mood and heavier still on emotion. Borrowing at various times from Iron Maiden, Candlemass, and Primordial, the song feels irresistible in its power and scope and Zeb delivers a hard, rough-edged Urban Breed style performance sure to impress. “Suffer in Silence” is much more direct and urgent, like a punch to the jaw with brass knuckles, with crunchy riffs laying on your chest with rib-cracking heft. “1000 Broken Bones” sounds like it was taken directly from Tad Morose‘s excellent Undead album with a grim, moody, riff-driven approach; and emotive closer “We Are All Slaves” bowls you over with its deeply brooding, emotionally draining journey full of nods to DoomVS and the long underappreciated Communic.

All seven songs are top-notch examples of melodic doom and the album feels much shorter than its 47 minutes because the writing is so strong. The production is also solid and satisfyingly deep, with real heaviness in the riffs and a sweetly organic drums sound.

Mr. Zeb is big find and his vocals are a major part of Below‘s appeal. His range is impressive and his rough-edged delivery is a perfect fit with the doomy, downtrodden riffage and bleak mood. His vocals on oversized epics like “Disappearing Into Nothing” and the title track show a keen knack for dramatics and theater without every crossing into overwrought overkill or cheese-play. The guitar-work by Berg and Paud is also impeccably rendered. They both graduated magna cum loud from Candlemass U. and the influence of that iconic band lives large in their dirgy leads, melodic soloing and overall song structuring. Of special note is the drumming by Doc (Jens Vestergren). His style has a heavy groove and swagger even when he’s in minimalist mode on the slower segments and his kit work delivers a whole lotta pop to the proceedings when things get busy. And busy things get, as tempos change frequently, never relying too much on standard doom chugs. This makes the album much more aggressive and lively while staving off boredom throughout.

Below‘s debut was rock solid, but their sophomore outing is better, proving beyond a doubt they can play with the big boys. Upon a Pale Horse is on a fast track to year-end listery and is almost certainly one of the best doom albums of 2017. Below is now above.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 272 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: facebook.com/belowmetal
Releases Worldwide: May 19th, 2017

 

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  • basenjibrian

    Sounds intriguing. Have to admit I have never listened to Tad Morose, and this review suggests I should check them out as well!

    • Yes you should. ASAP.

      • brutal_sushi

        AH-KNEW-BISS!!!

        • Love that song.

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          I’ve been back on a Tad Morose kick since Steel first showed me this Below record. Man, I love this shit.

      • Bryan Stroup

        For sure! Tad Morose was one of my best early finds of the 2000s.

      • Bas

        I also never listened to Tad Morose, the name is very familiar though.. which album should I start with?
        (as someone who likes this Below album)

        • i’d say A Mended Rhyme or Undead, though Matters of the Dark is great too. Avoid their recent stuff without Urban Breed on vocals.

          • Bas

            Thanks !

          • Bryan Stroup

            What in the world kind of recommendation is that? If you’re going to introduce Tad Morose to someone, it’s gotta be Modus Vivendi all the way! :)

            The others are really good too, but the final album with Urban Breed is overall pretty much unmatched. Not just in songwriting either, but the performances and production.

          • Modus is good but not as good as the other three Urban albums.

          • Bryan Stroup

            Lies. Actually, I might almost agree if their production wasn’t so thin sounding. They don’t have the bite that Modus Vivendi does. It has the best sound the band has ever produced.

    • Brent Johnson

      Only the stuff with Urban on vocals though.

  • Frost15

    Sounds like Candlemass and Judas Priest fusion with Bruce Dickinson on vocals…

  • Huck N’ Roll

    I can confirm that this is an excellent album.

  • El_Cuervo

    ehhhh

  • Eli Valcik

    This is a nice suprise, I loved trapped underground. I had no idea this album was coming.

  • Stuart Leeds

    Uh…there’s no ‘like’ button on here…dammit, I’m going to have to type “Like”! This is great…another 4/5….looks like I’m forking out for another album, then!

    …and checking out Tad Morose, too…

    • sir_c

      Instead of just hammering the thumbs up, you can actually phrase your emotions into some witty comment surrounded by some random insult or bad joke.
      How’s that for a change?

  • Bryan Stroup

    The vocalist sounds closer to Michael Kiske than anyone else IMO. Anyway, yet another reason this site is still number one in finding new and interesting music. I doubt I would have heard of this band otheriwse.

    • Malev Draizhen

      Yeah he has the power metal vibe going on.

      • I don’t hear Kiske at all. Urban Breed, some Dickinson and maybe Joacim Cans? Sure.

        • Lars Barres

          Lots of Kiske-isms in this embedded track – his vibrato, how he ends phrases going sharp, that “ahhhhhh” bit at 3:32 is straight outta “Halloween”. Almost everything from 4:45 on reminds me of MK – phrasing, going from clean to edge, pitch changes, straining at top of (very high) range. Meh – to each their own. The guy can obviously sing since he’s being compared to some of the best of all time (well, minus Cans).

          Anyway, this song is pretty cool, will check out the rest.

        • Malev Draizhen

          He sounds like a ton of USPM vocalists

        • Bryan Stroup

          Kiske was always called the German Dickinson anyway, but he always sounded more like Geoff Tate to me (which at certain ranges is kind of a moot point I suppose). Kiske usually had a cleaner higher end than Dickinson, and their vibratos were quite different. Also, Kiske has this odd enunciation “slurp” or slurring sound that Dickinson does not. You can hear it throughout this song as well as “Hours of Darkness”. Regardless, I think he just sounds like he alternates between Urban Breed and Kiske.

          Both have been in my top ten vocalists forever anyway, so it’s not like it really matters who this guy sounds more like between the two.

      • Caio

        To me, he sounds a lot like André Mattos on early Angra.

    • Grymm

      I must be the only person here who detects a bit of Todd LaTorre in the vocals as well as Urban Breed and Robert Lowe.

      • Nah, I can hear some of Todd in the upper ranges.

    • Ta2dlam

      I hear a ton of early-to middle-years Geoff Tate when he didn’t sound like he was struggling as he does now.

      • Brent Johnson

        That’s the first name that came to mind for me.

  • metalcasket

    I’ve had this pre-ordered since it first popped up on Metal Blade’s Bandcamp page, having only heard ‘1000 Broken Bones’ (and nothing from the last album). I can’t even remember how many times I’ve streamed that fucking song, but along came ‘Disappearing into Nothing’ and…to say I’ve just been incredibly impatient is an understatement. This thing needs to come out already!

  • Jrod1983

    This is really good, been awhile since I heard some new kickass epic doom.

  • Thomas Wilkens

    Definitely power-metal-y. I wish he would throw in some rough vocals in there; but obviously that doesn’t seem to be their style. Great review as always, and this band does seem quite promising. They deserve that 4/5 rating.

  • Not a negative comment in the review. And yet, a 4/5. Doom fatigue? Did druhm knowingly violate the format to leave us all wondering, why isn’t this album perfect? WHAT DO YOU KNOW THAT WE DON’T OLD MAN?

  • Kill The King

    Been counting down the days for this!!

  • Wilhelm

    Man, this is some good trad doom, the guy sounds like Urban Breed too which is +1 in my book.

  • Thatguy

    Happy Metal Guy’s grave found at last.

    • He’s fine! He’s on extended sabbatical.

      • sir_c

        Do we need to use the C-14 method to guesstimate his return?

  • R.Daneel Olivaw

    how much i like this page!!always helping me to find new stuff.

    • ssorg

      counterpoint: I now spend more money on music than on my wife.

      • [not a Dr]

        … I thought this would be kind of obvious: buy the music FOR your wife. You’ll be spending more on your wife than just on music.
        Problem: managed.

  • Jeremy Freeman

    Yeah i actually thought it was Urban Breed until I read the bio on them. Great stuff. Loved Tad Morose and Bloodbound (with Urban).

  • Scourge

    Wow, his vocals on the embedded track are better than the entirety of their debut! I thought their first album was ok, but he didn’t exactly stretch his vocals so it was a little boring. This, on the other hand, sounds kind of fantastic!

  • Just ordered the Vinyl. I enjoyed the first album, but the tracks I have heard blew me away !m/

  • GardensTale

    This kicks a lot of ass. And I mean a LOT of ass. I mean YUGE amounts of ass.

    • herrschobel

      it kicks so much ass it eventually becomes the ASS !
      great indeed !!

      • itsmydamnation

        bigly ass

  • AnnieK13

    Really like the embedded track…going to have to check out the rest of this one.

  • rumour_control

    Great review. Great music. Great passage filled with astute alliteration:
    “His style has a heavy groove and swagger even when he’s in minimalist mode on the slower segments and his kit work delivers a whole lotta pop to the proceedings when things get busy.”

  • doom-erik

    I also got the Kiske feeling from the singer at first, at least in the high range. But he is also very similar to the guy in Memory Garden. I wasn’t blown away by their debut but the embedded track and this review makes me stoked on listening to this album.

  • Bryan Stroup

    Was finally able to listen to the entire album. Dunno. It seems “good”, but so far nothing really stands out other than the vocals. Most of the songs tend to blend in with one another. It might be a grower, but right now it just sounds like a collection of really killer parts, but only maybe three really good songs as a whole. I hear almost nothing but Kiske and Dickinson though, with him only really sounding like Urban Breed when it’s time to add a bit more bite. If nothing else, it’s a vocal showcase.

  • Bas

    Wow indeed !!!

  • Greg Hasbrouck

    This may be the best vocal performance I’ve heard in the last five years.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Great production indeed. The guitar work at the start of The Coven sounds quite magical.

  • Panagiotis Krokidas

    That is one my top 2017 releases so far.