Something smells a bit fishy around here. There must be something in the water. We’re gunna need a bigger boat… Sorry, I just need to gut myself of all the awful fish puns that I could possibly slip into this review, before I begin. Otherwise I’ll be up to my gills in… Oh, what’s the use!! Sweden’s Pike have been lurking under the surface of the European doom scene since 2009. Propelled by the sails of their powerful, misanthropic brand of heavy metal they’ve chartered a course through two excellent EPs, and now a debut long-player out on Death Valley Records. Whether their moniker is coined more from the great sea-beasts themselves, as a tribute to modern day’s mightiest riffing leviathan Matt Pike or from something completely different is up for debate, but there’s certainly an oceanic property to these five tracks of emotional, Earthly glory.
There’s certainly a mystique afoot this great, white beast. The likes of ‘Mountainous’ and dynamic opener ‘Ritual Romanum’ swim through delicate wakes of barren despair with an edgy sense of loss, yet aboard the mighty Pike, you’re never far from a choppy patch of dark, hulking riffage. Alex Risberg’s voice is pitched in an awkward direction – very much captaining the ship, but, in a manner not unlike Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes, retaining a haunting, spacey and distant cry of desperation. It does feel like there’s an abundance of the Peaceville Three (Paradise Lost, Anathema, My Dying Bride) atop the pile of CDs in the “Influence” cargo hold, as the record dips, peaks, rolls and crashes through both baritone textures and metallic crunch in equal measure. ‘Ned Land’ is a triumphant ode to ‘20,000 Leagues under the Sea’ and was ultimately the first piece to capture my ear with the band’s imaginative and expansive heaviness. Erik Palm’s guitar braves on through torrents of harmonic chords and sky-rocketing solos, as Alex sings us the solemn tale as if he’s been marooned on an island for a good part of the 20,000 leagues himself.
‘Nothing But Dust’ is a slower type of subterranean odyssey, Palm sounds as though he’s composing the soundtrack to the plight of a stricken submarine hurtling towards the ocean-bed as a despondent barrage of riffs soaks the conscious mind. There are hints of Burzum or Wolves In The Throne Room as the backing guitar layers become a hyper-speed pillage on the wrists and fingers; the vessel sinking ever deeper. Alvin Risberg’s drumming throughout is solid, but not really focussed upon. Yet, at the close of this hymn after Alex wails the reason for the great depression: “I put my trust in a failing art, And now I realise it’s nothing but dust”, a wall of cymbals and fading mid-paced double kick signals the collision of metallic hull with solid rock oblivion. With Palm’s solo screaming in pain beside creatures warped by the water pressure, it’s a startlingly innovative way to end an epic piece.
After something that desolate, it’s only right that ‘Mountainous’ picks up the pace with some swashbuckling and choppy riffs that make Karma to Burn sound like a Little Mermaid-themed kid’s disco party. There’s more swing to the sail here as the Pike galleon bounces across the surf rather than careering through it. ‘At the End of Existence’ is a fitting and lengthy (13-minute) closer. Alex Risberg’s bass takes command of the rudder as yet more contrasts of death metal speed and esoteric mid-tempo doom collide aboard a harrowing bow to the 5-tracks album.
OK, so maybe I went a little overboard with the crabby, I mean crappy, sea puns, but it really does fit with the despondency at play on ‘To Cross the Great Divide’. The album is a surprising grower, and demands more than a casual listen – each time I played it through I found new favourite elements. Despite insisting their chief influence as Black Sabbath and High On Fire, I think Pike have far far more to them than the Neanderthal pummel of their namesake’s three-piece. Fans of YOB, Isis and any variety of expansive, proggy doom should give this a whirl… pool. Recommended listening for a dark, wet, windy day, Pike’s voyage across the great divide is quite a tale to tell.
My humble thanks to Alex Risberg for his assistance in making this review happen.
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Scribed by: Pete Green