It must have been six or seven years ago that there was a veritable flood of Scandinavian bands peddling overtly retro, bluesy, occasionally doomy, rock. There were literally thousands of the blighters and my (rather uncharitable) recollection is that most of them seemed to be more influenced by Witchcraft and Graveyard than actual bands from the 70s. Thankfully, the flood was quite brief. Or at least it seemed to be: I moved back to Basingstoke around that time and it might have continued and passed me by. These things happen in Basingstoke.
In any event, one listen to Sleepwulf will take you right back to the halcyon days of, well, 2013 or so. They would have really fitted in nicely with that tide of other overtly retro, bluesy, occasionally doomy rock bands. Now, I have no problem with bands not re-inventing the wheel or wearing their influences on their sleeve. Nobody reviewed here on the Sleeping Shaman is doing it for the fame or for the money (if they are they’re woefully misguided), they’re making the music that they love making. The problem for me is that if you sound so similar to so many other bands, you’re going to need the most blinding collection of songs to make you stand out.
Anyway, Sleepwulf are a four-piece from Kirstianstad in Sweden (possibly with one or more members based in Scotland, it isn’t entirely clear to me from their website) and this, their self-titled debut, is being given the full vinyl treatment by Copenhagen’s Cursed Tongue Records. Just in case I wasn’t sufficiently clear above, they deliver nine tracks of ‘early doom’ with obvious nods to Graveyard, Witchcraft et al. If you’re fond of warm, fuzzy vintage tones then you’ll feel instantly at home; Sleepwulf’s sound really oozes early 70s valve-driven goodness.
Pleasant as it is, the basic sound does lack individuality – my first thought on hearing the opening chords of the record was that it sounds exactly like Brutus (one of the better bands from the genre). If Sleepwulf do offer a point of difference from their peers, it’s vocalist Owen Robertson. He’s got a decent voice and while he doesn’t do anything flashy, he does have a nice line in vibrato which sounds pretty cool. The vocals across the album also have a distinctively rhythmic quality to them (listen to Lucifer’s Light and you’ll hopefully understand my poorly-expressed point), which again makes them more interesting than the standard genre offerings.
If you’re fond of warm, fuzzy vintage tones then you’ll feel instantly at home; Sleepwulf’s sound really oozes early 70s valve-driven goodness…
The album starts promisingly. Wizard Slayer is an excellent track which is more than good enough to drive any comparisons with other bands from your mind. With a quiet verse building into a chorus that you’ll be humming for days, you can see why it was released as a single advance of the album. Lucifer’s Light is another winner. The band settle into a laid-back groove centred on a simple riff, and the vocals drive things on with some style.
Elsewhere though, there are tracks where the lack of originality begins to grate. Standing Stones is a decent song in its own right, but the main verse riff sounds similar enough to the one from Hand Of Doom to be really distracting. Tumbling Towers is another track that should be quite enjoyable, but every time I’ve listened to it I’ve spent the entire three minutes and twenty-four seconds trying to figure out which Kadavar song it really reminds me of.
Taken purely on its own terms, Sleepwulf’s debut is a solid, enjoyable album. Even though it’s a touch one-paced and suffers a little from a lack of variety, it does have some quality tunes and Robertson is an engaging vocalist. For me though, too much of it sounds like (and I mean exactly like) stuff that’s been done many times before.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc