While doom rock as a genre to me seems like unexplored territory, I think there’s a lot of potential and new sounds to gather for the few bands that choose to dive into it. Swedish five-piece Besvärjelsen is one of those bands, and after listening to their 2019 EP/Mini album Frost as part of Blues Funeral Recordings’ PostWax Series, they caught my attention with their approach to songwriting as they manage to shake things up in terms of tempo, time and feeling quite a bit over the course of a five-minute track. Their second full-length, Atlas, is out on May 27th through Magnetic Eye Records, and on it, they continue to explore new grounds, both in terms of genre and sound.
Besvärjelsen’s sound is best described as dark and warm, and even though the overall production is fairly clean, it comes out with a certain punch and grit to it. There are equal parts heavy riffing as well as melodic parts, and Lea Amling Alazams’ dark and soulful vocals add a lot of warmth and contrast to this.
The Cardinal Ride serves as the album-opener; a heavy and pulsating cut that sets the described tone. The next track Acheron, in my opinion, shows off what Besvärjelsen does best; taking you on a ride of changing tempos and feeling with lots of variation throughout, so you’re never really sure what happens next. The lead single Digerliden is another great example of this, where the vocals have a subtle nod towards the 90s grunge-era with Alice In Chains-esque harmonies. Like the opening track, it’s a non-stopping heavy groover, and it serves as a clear definition of the doom rock genre term. There’s darkness and warmth to it, and although it’s heavy and downtuned, it’s not as massive and distorted as doom metal, putting it somewhere between stoner and doom.
The sound is huge, and the contrasting soulful vocals complements this so well…
While there is experimentation, there are some parts of the album that are ‘done by the book’. Take for example House Of The Burning Light, which feels like more of a classic heavy-rock-tune; guitar leads and solos are on point with less focus on sudden changes of pace. There are a few of these cuts on the album, and while they do add variation to the overall experience, they do fall a little short compared to tracks like Acheron, Digerliden and Divided Ends where the band really cross boundaries, creatively speaking.
As we get closer to the end, the songs become heavier and lengthier, and the last two tracks are by far the most crushing on the album. Before we get there, a two-minute interlude of grand, middle eastern inspired horn instruments sets the tone. It’s beautiful and eerie at the same time, and we’re then suddenly met by the heavy and downtuned Obscured By Darkness accompanied by drone synths. The sound is huge, and the contrasting soulful vocals complements this so well! The last track, the aforementioned Divided Ends, there’s no way to close an album like an eight-minute epic, filled to the brim with melodic riffs taking us right back to Besvärjelsen’s very distinct songwriting abilities.
Atlas is, all in all, a very enjoyable listen shedding some much-needed light on an overlooked musical style. The very distinct sound and feeling on this album (as well as their previous releases) make Besvärjelsen a unique voice in the stoner and doom scene. There are loads of interesting ideas and experimentation which is much appreciated, although this means that some cuts are more memorable than others.
Scribed by: Emil Damgaard Andersen