The press release that accompanies the second album by the band that shares its name with a former town, now reclassified as an urban area in Sweden, is a real life gruesome horror story, worthy of being immortalised in film. Having seen documentaries like Gasland and What Lies Upstream where small towns are poisoned by big industry, the inhabitants cut adrift amidst health crisis and joblessness, left in poverty to die a slow and atrophying death; the grim reality of such heinous acts are far more horrific than any stalker with seemingly supernatural powers.
Lake Drinker, the bands sophomore for Prosthetic Records, is the follow up soundtrack to the real life events detailed in their 2019 debut Remains; telling the present day horror of American Big Tech swooping in under the guise of the benevolent savour, the latest album is a cautionary tale of a landscape decimated, deforestation and drained lakes.
As inhabitants of Horndal itself, the band members channel understandable frustration and anger that is framed with brutal sludge, death metal, even a hardcore punk attitude that positively bristles with indignation and begs to be heard. The band also throw in guest contributions from Pelle Jacobsson (classical percussion), Christer Falk and Daniel Johansson (horn arrangements), Johan Jansson (Interment and Dreadful Fate – guest vocals), and last but by no means least the voices of Horndal’s own protesters which helps to lend an air of worthy gravitas that the subject matter deserves.
Musically the album is very much a product of the last two decades of metal music and you don’t need to listen closely to hear nods to classic thrash bands such as Exhorder or Slayer and even slightly more obscure bands like Byzantine. The whole album is tight and well executed with the sounding rhythms handled deftly by drummer Pontus Levahn and Erik Welén‘s bass. The riffing and fretwork pyrotechnics are well delivered and there are some elements of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal movement, that spawned the likes of Lamb of God and Killswitch Engage, balanced with the more progressively ambitious concepts of Mastodon.
The music has plenty of sharp grooves and hardcore leanings to ensure a slamming pit in front of the stage…
Lake Drinker is an honest affair that never strays far from a tried and trusted formula while dipping its toes into sludge, but in truth sits far closer to straight ahead metal. When the band break into their stride, they sound more like their fellow countrymen Entombed AD with a groovy swagger that recalls the death and roll elements of To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth, helped out by vocalist Henrik Levahn’s similarity to the beloved, and sadly now departed, LG Petrov.
Horndal’s latest part of the saga doesn’t bring a whole host of new ideas to the table if I’m honest and somehow manages the slightly bizarre twist of a Scandinavian band copying the American bands who copied At The Gates and In Flames (here come the Kvelertak fans to chastise me…). However, the execution is as good as you could hope for. In addition to this defiant bludgeoning, there is a multifaceted aspect with the orchestral flavourings and the quiet instrumentalisation that adds depth to the rough edges, meaning the listener is never far from a sinister guitar line or bite to the proceedings.
The star of the album is undoubtedly the voice, both the main vocals and the choral enhancements that lend their strength to the band’s indignation and outrage. The death metal vocals are powerful and the howl of despair is palpable. The music has plenty of sharp grooves and hardcore leanings to ensure a slamming pit in front of the stage and there are some absolute stand out tracks like Kalhygget and Thor Bear or Growing Graves.
I feel like I’m damning Horndal with faint praise to keep saying this album is very well executed, but in truth that may hark back to my association with the documentaries I began this review talking about. I wanted to like Lake Drinker, to the point I could stand and scream ‘Listen! Listen to what is being done!’
However, the reality is the album is good, solid, rather than spectacular. The band do what they do very well and never stray too far from the formula they’ve laid out, which shouldn’t be taken as a criticism, but Lake Drinker is on the cusp of brilliance rather than throwing down the gauntlet to others.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden