Wikipedia has an interesting list of artists that have taken their monikers from other bands’ song titles. I used to think this signaled a lack of creativity (Funeral for a Friend, Gamma Ray, Godsmack), but when you see that the likes of Overkill, Radiohead and The Sisters of Mercy also took this approach, you realize it’s not a reliable indicator. What to expect, then, from a sludge/doom band that names itself after an Ufomammut record? Snailking is certainly a good choice – you can probably guess the band’s genre even without knowing the name’s etymology – but do they manage to channel their nominal inspiration’s flair for creating heavy, psychedelic masterpieces that don’t require you to be stoned off your tits to enjoy?
The album starts off well, “To Wonder” beginning with a slow atmospheric buildup that breaks out into some simple but powerful doom riffs, scrunching with dissonance. This isn’t kept up for long; after four minutes Snailking revert to a standard doom template. The rest of the song is OK – rather than enticing me to listen further, it nudges me towards my playlist so that I can hear YOB do the same sort of thing much better. The other tracks have a similar effect. They manage a few highlights: “Slithering” starts off well with a more interesting off-beat rhythm incorporating post-metal influences, and some of the quieter sections are well done, but there’s too little to warrant sitting through the rest of the album just to hear these. Despite the band’s name, there’s none of Ufommamut’s unhinged creativity on display here.
While the writing is sub-par, it’s the production that really ruins the record. Some space cadet decided to pan everything centrally, completely sapping any power the music might have had. The guitar and bass sound suitably sludgy, but all the instruments are competing for space in the center of the mix, leading to a very muffled overall sound. One severe side effect is that the vocals are extremely thin and quiet – most of what you can hear is the high-end raspiness of Pontus Ottosson’s voice, as this overlaps the least with the fuzzed-up guitar’s frequency range.
It’s not even the case that whoever queefed out this mix was unaware of the concept of stereo – you can hear the existence of some stereo width on the trailing reverb from the final chord of “Slithering”, and the rain sound effect at the start of “Requiem” is panned slightly left, for example. Given the fundamental limitations of the songs, the loss of this extra dimension is particularly damaging. With this sort of music you need to be enveloped in the sound, surrounded by the walls of fuzz and crashing drums. The more I listen, the more it annoys me that the compositions have been robbed of any chance they might have had of creating an impression by such a terrible mixing decision.
It could have been worse, I suppose. If they’d managed to ruin a musical masterpiece with something so easily fixable then my rage levels might have approached those of our angry master himself. As it is, there’s only so much a better mix could have done to elevate Storm out of mediocrity.