At this point, ‘retro-Swedish-doom’ might as well be its own sub-genre of heavy stoner, doom, and rock. As has been covered many times, Sweden has produced a deluge of stellar heavy rock bands going all the way back to the mid-90s. However, the specific, retro, proto-metal sound has been deftly captured by Swedes like Graveyard, and Witchcraft, among others, that have honed their craft to the point that any of these band’s albums would’ve sounded right at home in 1971.
Sleepwulf is the latest retro-doom band to emerge from Swedenthat have caused a stir in this genre. Their Self-Titled debut album made enough waves that they got snatched up by Heavy Psych Sounds for the release of their sophomore LP Sunbeams Curl. Signing to Heavy Psych Sounds means expectations are going to be raised, and there’s been an internet buzz about Sleepwulf, and excitement around the release of Sunbeams Curl.
Satan Is King, one of the foundations of Sunbeams Curl, opens the record with a bang. VocalistOwen Robertson instantly conjures up comparisons, to Pentagram’s legendary, loose-cannon vocalist Bobby Liebling, both in tone, delivery, and cadence. Robertson waxes on plenty of evil goings-on, topping it off with the driving chorus ‘life will begin when Satan is king’ leaving little room for interpretation. Guitarist Sebastian Ihme also makes his presence felt with his warm tones, retro-riffage, and pretty serious shred.
Green Man Dead tells the theoretical tale of the legendary forest being wiped out by man-made climate change, set to a crawling, doomy riff. There are plenty of twists and turns from the band as the song weaves back and forth. The rhythm section shines well on this track. Drummer Carl Lindberg shows off a nice touch and well-placed fills, while bassist Viktor Sjöström crawling bass lines complement Ihme’sriffs nicely.
This record is a prime example of Swedish retro-doom done right…
The first single Sex Magic Manifestation is bouncy, riff-y, and catchy. I get why the band, or label for that matter, chose this as the lead cut. Again, I’d make note of Ihme’s smooth, fluid lead work. Stoned Ape, perfectly sequenced at the halfway point, is a highlight for sure, and my personal favorite. A mellow, trippy, slow-burn that builds to an epic mid-tempo triumph, complete with organ flourishes, build-ups, bring-downs, and everything in between. Stoned Ape quickly manifested itself as the pillar of Sunbeams Curl forme.
Switching gears, Man Under The Mountain is a big-riff stomper, complete with killer behind-the-beat action from Lindberg. Again, I’d make mention Ihme’s guitar tone. Warm and fuzzy, heavy, yet clear, it is a high point of Sunbeams Curl. Tyrant Song is another up-tempo rocker, setting the stage before we get really weird with Toad Licker Mushroom Picker. The title alone, like the aforementioned Satan is King, leaves little room for interpretation. Robertson in particular is notable on this song, telling his trippy story whilst displaying his uncanny rhyming ability. A big weird, apex of Sunbeams Curl. Bury Me Backwards closes the record out in an introspective fashion.
Sleepwulf isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, and Sunbeams Curl isn’t exactly breaking any new ground. This style has been done a lot over the last 10-15 years, but my take is, if you’re going to do stoner, doom, and proto-metal, do it well, and Sleepwulf most certainly do that. This record is a prime example of Swedish retro-doom done right. Sunbeams Curl sounds fantastic, all instrumentation is clear, fuzzy, but not overwhelmingly so. The tones are warm, Robertson sounds like a cross between Bobby Liebling and Ian Anderson, while delivering interesting lyrics on well-worn subjects in this genre. Ihme’s guitar tone and riffs are killer, Lindberg and Sjöström do an excellent job holding the low end down, as all four musicians do their respective jobs well, with all four of them having many individual highlights on the album.
If one is in the mood for some retro-doom, one could do a lot worse than Sunbeams Curls, as it’s a prime example of how to execute a tried-and-true style, all while adding individual elements that make it unique for the listener.
Scribed by: Martin Williams