Heathen Rites is a Swedish doom/sludge band formed in 2018 by former Burning Saviours and Whyte Ash guitarist/vocalist Mikael Monks. In their debut album, Heritage, Heathen Rites conjures up a slate of expertly crafted explorations of proto-doom, flavoured with a little 80s metal and Nordic sensibilities. I’ve been listening to this for over a month now and have found it to be a bit of a difficult album to describe; a potion concocted of Warning, Pentagram, a little late 70s/early 80s Judas Priest and Ozzy, followed by a little folk experimentation.
The album opener, Eternal Sleep starts off the album with eerie reverb-laden notes, building with a smoky, thunderous buzz. Not going too far into the abyss without a lifeline, a Jake E. Lee inspired solo breaks though; delicious, and very nutritious riffs. Forging onwards into the second track, Midnight Sun, a haunting, lonely guitar, reminiscent of Insomnium’s more melodic offerings, takes you by the hand, dream-like until a desperate, soul bearing shriek comes from the depths. The first time I heard it, I had to backtrack two times before I was sure it wasn’t Rob Halford in his pure 80s glory. Holy shit, that was unexpected. A simple, uncomplicated arrangement, but devastatingly rich.
The third track, Autumn goes back to a more aggressive, doom-ier tempo, while not succumbing to tropes. I heard undertones of Ozzy’s The Ultimate Sin, albeit much heavier. And that’s not a bad thing. Immediately following, Gleipner surprises again, with an acoustic intro. The bass guitar really punches through the mix here, controlling the mids, until a viola (or synth) appears instead of a guitar solo, finishing back at the acoustic guitar intro as the coda.
progressive and classic, giving credit to what came before and forging its own path forward…
Here Comes The Night is next, another class in old school Judas Priest; very much Sin After Sin’s Here Comes The Tears. The up-tempo The Sons Of The North is next, telling us about his Nordic heritage, and what it means to him. More of a straight-ahead rocker than the doom heavy first half of the record; still a good song. The album’s closer, Kulning is a head scratcher though. Birdsong and folk vocalisations more at home with Heilung, than with doom metal was an …. interesting way to close out the record.
The album is certainly a hard one to describe, to say the least. The first six songs are well written, superbly crafted, and lush in arrangements. Both progressive and classic, giving credit to what came before and forging its own path forward. The final one, though, seems to struggle under the weight of experimentation. Heritage is set for release August 27th on Svart Records.
Scribed by: Sean Haner