Laser Dracul – Hagridden Review

Borlänge, Sweden, seems to have entered the historical record shortly after the Black Death ravaged Europe in the 14th Century and remained an utterly insignificant village until around 1875. It was at that point that Borlänge gained a railway station and became important for servicing the recently-built ironworks in neighbouring Domnarvet. Why am I telling you this? Well, simply because the subject of today’s lesson, Laser Dracul, met over beers in Borlänge, which the promo described as having “a history forged in iron,” a statement that intrigued me. After some very light-touch research and now armed with the rather dull historical facts, I felt compelled to share. That fateful meeting … actually, let’s just call it a meeting, took place in Borlänge in the late 1990s. Almost 20 years would pass before, in 2016, stoner doom trio Laser Dracul released their self-titled debut (which is right on the line between album and EP status but we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt).

Four years later, Laser Dracul are back with the follow up, Hagridden, and sporting the unappealing sales pitch that from “the foggy plains and wet woodlands of southern Dalarna we have risen, to envelope thee in doomy rock and/or metal, stale as decades of accumulated sweat, spilt ale and tobacco stains.” After spending my allotted time with Hagridden – and its predecessor – this is actually, I think, a fairly accurate summary. Drawing on both the atmospheric doom of Black Sabbath and Witchfinder General’s stoner rock, Laser Dracul deal in dirty, lo-fi, rolling riffs, underpinned by the rumbling bass and rough, hollow cleans of Michael Brander. Sounding a bit like Dozer run through a Sleep filter, there is something oddly comforting about the sludgy rock on show on Hagridden.

It’s hard to put your finger on exactly why but Hagridden feels familiar and, despite the Swedes obvious penchant for Hammer horror – as obvious in the music as it is in their cover art – there is little to shock or challenge here. Perhaps because it’s not trying to push any envelopes or redefine genre boundaries, I found it easy to let Laser Dracul wash over me. There are times I want to be challenged or have my brains scrambled but there are other times when I am quite content to just enjoy some fun, dirty stoner rock. From the first thrumming bass line and cymbals that open the record on “Ashes and Dust” you know it’s going to be an easy and enjoyable ride1 and, 42 minutes later, as closer “Mother Midnight” crashes to a final halt, it’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed.

At the same time, it’s hard to imagine anyone being super excited either. It’s not that Laser Dracul do anything wrong but rather what they do is just a bit … familiar, to come back to that term. The ominous noodling of “High Tide Striding” is enjoyable, the rumbling Sabbathian stylings of “Into the Night We Go” are on point, as is “Now You See,” which sounds markedly similar. The problem is just that though: everything here is fine. I said that Hagridden sounds familiar but I think ‘safe’ might have been a better word. Lars Bergfält’s riffs are suitably big and fuzzy but there isn’t a single moment on the record where I really find myself headbanging along. Brander’s vocals are good but lack that undefinable edge, which would put them on the next level. His best moments are actually when he steps away from the clean doom vocals, toying briefly with something a bit rougher and harsher on parts of “Ill in Spirit,” for example. Relatively little is asked of Henrik Östensson behind the kit but what he does is solid. The production is actually one of the best things about Hagridden, with bass and guitar sounding thick and meaty, vocals strong and in the right place in the mix.

Laser Dracul have put together a solid record but it is precisely a case, I think, of the record being assembled, rather than allowed to flow. Hagridden is a fun but unchallenging listen, which sadly lacks any really memorable moments. I like the basic direction of travel for Laser Dracul but they have played it too safe, relying too much on their obvious influences. They need to cut loose and take some more risks in their songwriting, if their next outing is going take a step up.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Majestic Mountain Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 25th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. There’s some ‘yer mom’ fodder for the bottom feeders in the comments, if ever I wrote any.
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