Karloff – The Appearing Review

Punk and I have a weird relationship. I grew up hearing a lot of The Clash and Buzzcocks thanks to playing video games while listening to music on “Random” mode on my 3-CD Sony player with my younger brother. I also developed a fondness for pop-punk and skate punk because of playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games with the neighbors. In high school, my friends and I would listen to Black Flag’s “TV Party” because it was funny, and once in broadcasting class a close friend and I censored Sick of it All’s “Take the Night Off” so it could be played on the school’s radio station. I also got into Disfear in high school because of Tomas Lindberg’s vocals and my love of Slaughter of the Soul. My tastes in punk have been scattershot for ages, based on what was around instead of any proper research or effort put into the genre.

I tell you this, dear reader, because Karloff is a “metal punk” band, a phrase that doesn’t mean much to me. Military Shadow is “metal punk” too, but they sound nothing like Karloff. What does The Appearing sound like, then? To me, this is firmly in the Swedish realm of metal, specifically what post-Wolverine Blues Entombed was doing, including and especially Entombed A.D. As for the punk element, one would expect the influence of Discharge, Anti Cimex, and Amebix to loom large as in Swe-death. I’m not hearing much of this in Karloff, but instead more of material like The Exploited, with a notable influence from their more midtempo stuff like “Wankers.” Add to this an old Celtic Frost influence and you’ve got the Karloff brew.

The Appearing is not created for those whose palates crave complexity. This is the music of band practices fueled by beer and volume. After a piano-led introduction, “My Misanthropic Kingdom” kicks in with riffing that sounds like Entombed A.D. decided to listen to a ton of The Exploited and write some music immediately thereafter. It’s got a simplistic song structure, good energy, and the vocals sound like a cross between Petrov and Warrior. “Superior Presence of Cruelty” drops the punk for a while in its midsection and rides out a solid riff which is a combination of Entombed and Celtic Frost. It’s effective, and the transition back into the faster punk material is smart. I’m particularly fond of “On the Old Ropes,” which has a whiff of old Mayhem (“Pagan Fears”) to my ears. Closing number “A Violent Winter” has more metal-focused riffs than the other tracks here, and while it’s very similar to material on Back to the Front, it’s got a more obvious punk infusion in the chorus and bridge which helps set it apart.

Unfortunately, despite having enough good material to avoid being a wash, Karloff pens punk progressions which can sometimes come across as exercises in genre aesthetics. For example, “Hate Consumer” is built around few riffs, one of them a standout. It’s “verse” riff, however, smacks of nondescript and boilerplate punk. “Nihilistik Reaction” has a similar problem, sounding enough like punk to please punk fans but not setting itself apart whatsoever in quality – you could draw punk bands from a hat and get riffs just like this. “The Sound of Discipline” is entertaining enough, but once it’s finished I’m left with no memory of what it sounds like beyond “punk through an Entombed A.D. filter.” “Winterlude” doesn’t add anything to the album except an extra 1:49.

I had an extremely difficult time coming up with much to say about The Appearing. I’ve run out the clock so much that I’m finishing this less than an hour before I leave for a weekend camping trip. Anyway, The Appearing is a fun enough record, but it’s not one I’ll reach for often. It’s not particularly heavy or fast, but it’s also far from offensive to the ears. I wouldn’t be upset if someone put it on, but I wouldn’t be upset if I never heard it again. To their credit, Karloff sounds great; chunky drums, an active and audible bass which does more than slavishly follow the guitar, and vocals with just enough reverb to give it a pleasing old-school feel. The Appearing exists firmly in the middle of the road.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dying Victims Productions
Website: facebook.com/karloffpunk
Releases Worldwide: July 30th, 2021

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