With a small square of light (sanity) and an infinite darkness (madness) surrounding it. The girl standing on the corner has wandered to the edge of sanity and is awaiting the fall into madness. This imagery on the album cover is a perfect precursor for the music tucked inside the sleeve.
Onwards And Downwards is the sophomore album for the Swedish band Alastor. As stated by the guitarist Hampus Sandell ‘If our last album Slave To The Grave were about death, this record is more about madness.’ The quartet utilize fuzz soaked guitars, pummeling drums and haunting vocals to place you on the edge of the sanity square next to the girl.
Instantly, the opening track pulls you in with four heavy beats and exposes the listener to an incredible combination of drums, bass and guitars. It’s an upbeat track titled The Killer In My Skull and starts the unwilling journey into the darkness I spoke of and will continue to reference throughout. With lines such as ‘I can’t resist it any longer’ and ‘too late to beg for my forgiveness’ it’s clear the slow walk to the end of that square has begun.
The next track Dead Things In Jars has a similar sound to the first track and allows the album to flow nicely, continuing the trek to the edge. Just before the five minute mark the music drops off in a very cool way leaving just one guitar for a short riff that leads into a very emotional guitar solo that’s sticks with you long after the song is over.
The next two songs are Death Cult and Nightmare Trip both have a similar vibe and are very upbeat, and almost promising in feeling that maybe sanity is an option for the girl on the cover. The promo notes describe Robin Arnryd’s vocals as ‘chorus-drenched voice soars above it all like a one-man choir’ and I could not have described it better myself, especially in these two songs.
From the opening riff to the fading final notes of the organ solo, you feel that the music spans the black abyss to its infinite end…
The first four tracks are what leads the girl to the edge of the square. This next track is what decides her fate.
Pipsvängen is the turning point on the album for me and what sets this album apart. It’s short and very much needed. The incessant ticking in the background with the soothing acoustic guitar defines the struggle of sanity and madness. As the song concludes the acoustic guitar ends and the ticking continues as if to say madness has won.
The opening feedback on the track Onwards And Downwards is where I imagine the girl steps from that ledge and the following epic riff to follow is the descent into a darkness of unknown proportions. The songs has a certain heaviness to it while remaining catchy. It also has a nice gradual build up to the seven minute mark where the music drops off into a soft, yet fuzz filled, riff finishing off the descent and leading into the final track Lost And Never Found.
It’s fairly obvious with the title that there will be no ascent back into sanity and the darkness has consumed. From the opening riff to the fading final notes of the organ solo, you feel that the music spans the black abyss to its infinite end. Madness has taken over and there is no coming back.
Although, I never want to know what it’s like to slip into madness, this album surely gives you the feeling. Counting Bodies Like Sheep… by A Perfect Circle was the only song where it felt like I was inside the mind of someone who was going crazy and now Alastor have taken that to a new level by creating an entire album. There are great songs on Onwards And Downwards, but it really needs to be heard from start to finish in one sitting and that seems to become a lost art. Give it a try but don’t fall off that ledge yourself.
Scribed by: Josh Schneider