Caskets Open – Concrete Realms of Pain Review

Alright, stop me if you’ve heard this one. Strife, Saint Vitus and Glenn Danzig walk into a bar. Danzig orders an absinthe, Saint Vitus order beers and Strife order Shirley Temples. Bartender says, “You boys can stay, but the penguin has got to go.” Ahhh? Wait, did I mention the penguin in the setup? Let me start over. Strife, Saint V…or maybe it was Earth Crisis. Is it funnier if Earth Crisis has a penguin? I should probably workshop it. This joke, which is, trust me, super funny, was going to be my segue to discussing the sound of Finnish band Caskets Open, who are releasing their fourth full-length Concrete Realms of Pain on Nine Records. As you’ve likely gathered, they play hardcore infused doom metal with a twist of goth. There’s nothing funny about them and they don’t have a penguin, but they do have this suave gentleman on their album cover who looks like he either works in a sex dungeon or as an early level boss in a 90’s street fighting video game1.

Caskets Open are one of those bands that not only plays a throwback style, or in this case an odd amalgam of styles, they’re a band that feels throwback. The move towards busy composition and complex, layered production hasn’t effected these Finns. Each part of their sound is stripped to it’s essentials, each instrument given space to be irreducibly itself, including Timo Ketola’s vocals, which spend most of the album in clean, slightly affected territory a la Danzig, but occasionally cut loose in snarling hardcore shouts. The production on Concrete Realms of Pain is warm and full, with a mix that keeps the buzzing bass guitar lines clearly identifiable throughout.

Concrete Realms of Pain is at its best when the ratio of hardcore punk to doom leans into the former. There are only a couple of truly raging moments on the album, and they tend to share space on the doomiest tracks, but songs like “Riding On a Rotting Horse,” “Blossom” and “Soul Stained Glass” hit a sweet spot of heavier, slower punk with hints of Misfits and The Damned. The rare moments they go full-on 90s Victory Records rage, as they do at the end of opener “Four Shrines” and the beginning of album standout “Tadens Tolthe,” they prove they were born for hardcore and really should cut loose more often. Their slowest moments tend to be their weakest, with the exception of both “Homecoming” and “Tadens Tolthe,” where Caskets Open wisely tie Ketola’s singing directly to slowly rising doom riffs with real, aching emotion in the former and damn near majestic hope in the latter.

It’s a shame that they chose “Four Shrines” as the album opener, as it really takes its sweet time getting going. While it does eventually erupt into a chest thumping blast, the meandering, minimal guitar lines fail to build momentum under Tolthe’s best efforts at slow simmering tension. He’s an engaging enough vocalist, with a flawed but honest delivery, but when Caskets Open rely on him to cast a spell in the most stripped down moments, he doesn’t quite get there. What’s really missing in songs like the opener and “White Animal” though are big, hooky doom riffs. Perhaps not surprisingly, the weakest track here is the mid-tempo “Tunnel Guard,” which does neither doom nor hardcore. There’s room for editing across the album’s 47 minutes, and if the band cut some of the dragging dirges for a little more rage, Concrete Realms of Pain could really hit hard.

Some flabby doom stretches and songwriting issues aside, Caskets Open have a cool sound that’s throwback without really trying. It took me awhile to warm up to this, but it’s a rewarding listen for a former hardcore kid turned doomster like myself. I think it bears pointing out that they play a style that would often tip into sludge, but this is never the case on Concrete Realms of Pain. When the doom/hardcore mix is just right, their sound is a unique voice in the current metal scene.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nine Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 20th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. It’s clearly Machine from the fine Nicholas Cage film, 8mm. – Steel
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