Doom metal according to Wikipedia: “Doom metal is an extreme style of heavy metal music that typically uses slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much “thicker” or “heavier” sound than other metal genres.”
Most of us know not to take things off the internet as gospel, but that as a description is pretty damn close when taking into account a band like Below, what it does miss is the epic size of songs, the grand vocal scales and passages that showcase real musicianship.
Upon a Pale Horse is the most recent offering from Below, and it takes everything above and beyond any expectation you could have going into the album. Their take on traditional metal, superb story telling and lengthy songs have seen them likened to the finest of bands like Iron Maiden and more obviously, Candlemass.
The orchestral opening intro brings the eerie and sets up for momentous track ‘Disappearing into Nothing’ slow, drudging, and seriously heavy, matched with soaring and impressive vocals that really take a front seat throughout the album. ‘The Coven’ follows in a gentler, yet still sinister style with some great lead work showcasing the talents on a less invasive and destructive form before the tempo picks up and the song carries on with a real mix of classical styled touches. Title track ‘Upon a Pale Horse’ sits in at just shy of the ten minute mark, and plays like a book within a book, the personification of epic. Massive in every aspect of the word. Great drumming carries the song like a trusty steed in battle, monstrous guitars and bass play with sharp, piercing accuracy, nothing overplayed or underplayed in the slightest, while vocalist Mr. Zed rides the journey in valiant fashion. A true masterpiece of a song that really shows not just the impressive talents of each individual member, but the impressive ability to work together as a unit.
‘Suffer in Silence’ fits into a more tradition take on the metal scale, playing at less than half of the title track. A strong pace with soaring choruses that could be enjoyed by those not usually pleased by the typical doom style. ‘Hours of Darkness’ takes the epic size of Upon a Pale Horse to a new level, with a structure that could withstand the biggest of catastrophes, each listening brings something else to attention and the guitar work really shines as highlight with such memorable passages that stick with you.
‘1000 Broken Bones’ takes the flaming baton from Suffer in Silence with a fist pumping, head banging, straight up beast and fits in perfectly as a battle cry before album closer ‘We Are All Slaves’. Another Goliath of a track, like earlier ones it begins gentle before taking its final steps on its lengthy journey. On par with the title track, it just keeps giving, a perfect bit of closure to such an impressive release.
In all, there isn’t much you can find to pick out as flaws through the album, in fact the only thing I can find comes down to preference, not liking the style, not being a fan of the vocals or the flamboyant guitar solos. As releases go, I don’t see much topping Upon a Pale Horse this year in the doom category, I expect to see this in many doom top tens of the year, and it’ll be completely deserved. Something everyone should check out.