You know, it’s funny. Metal sub-genres tend to be tied to certain areas of the world. We expect our black metal to come from Norway, our melodic death metal from Sweden or Finland, our poorly translated power metal from Italy. On the other side of the pond, we expect thrash from the Bay Area, metalcore from a local Hot Topic, and stoner metal from California. Of course, this has everything to do with the locations that spawned the genres in the first place, which only adds to my amazement that I find myself staring down the third Scandinavian stoner album in a month.
Captain Crimson are a different beast than the two debuts I praised before, however. With two records already under their belt, these boys have a confident swagger and straightforward gait, focusing on catchy riffs, a solid yet playful bass, and the voice of a 22-year-old kid cruising through Palm Desert in an open-top junker. Vocalist and founder Norén produces one-half of the authenticity of the geographically challenged band with a strong voice and a playfully offhanded inflection. It combines well with the joyous, energetic riffs not far removed from Fu Manchu. “Ghost Town” is a great way to open the album: full of fire with a riff that would make Clutch proud and ending with a great, groovy solo. “Bells from the Underground” has a slightly darker tone and pounds its riff into your skull with a sledgehammer. Centerpiece “Money” is the album’s biggest asset, however. It has a bluesy vibe you might encounter in a seedy Arizona dive bar and highlights all the band’s strengths: Norén’s emotive voice, more hooks than Velcro and bass thicker than a brick, finally culminating in a lengthy Skynyrdian solo that keeps you engaged throughout. If the whole album was this strong it might have made year’s end lists.
But as it turns out, “Money” rings in the end of the good half. “Drifting” saves itself from the bottom of the pile by sheer energy but it kicks off a notable drop in both quality and vitality. The second half doesn’t hook you the way the first did, failing to capitalize on the strong bass and forgetting to have fun. That self-assured swagger evaporates and it makes the band sound less experienced than they are. The exception is country ballad “Alone,” which aims for emotion instead of a groove, but it’s so similar to a famous Johnny Cash song it hurts. It feels more like a closer than a penultimate track, too, which leaves the profoundly unmemorable “Senseless Mind” dangling like a B-side that was added as a bonus. It’s a disappointing way to end the album, though on the whole the good tracks still outshine the middling ones.
But one more thing bugs me, although it’s a highly subjective matter: I miss a sense of uniquity, a personal identity. I recognize that the more someone specializes in a genre, the less two albums sound alike, as they can easily discern the differentiating details others might miss. I specifically called out Katla‘s sense of identity in my review of their debut, and Kremlin set themselves apart with great production and an attractive blues-centric approach. Captain Crimson don’t feel quite so independent, despite the more experienced and solidified songwriting. It’s telling that I keep feeling the urge to drop names of other bands, mostly Fu Manchu. On the whole the album is likable and has a few great tunes, but in a sea of similar stoner bands, I would likely not be able to pick them out.
However, putting the feather on the scales, Remind is a solid album. The vocals and bass are excellent, the guitar work punchy, and though uneven, the songwriting scrapes by on the strength of the first half. If you rarely listen to stoner, there’s probably better albums out there, but the discerning pothead should at the very least give “Ghost Town” and “Money” a whirl. As for myself, after the weak closer, it does sadden me a little to be surprised twice. I had not expected to review a triple threat of Scandinavian stoner in such a short period of time. But I’d expected less that one of them would sound just a bit too typically Californian.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Small Stone Records
Websites: captaincrimson.com | captaincrimson.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/CaptainCrimsonSwe
Releases Worldwide: October 14th, 2016