The Narrow Line by Craneium
Finnish psychedelic doom rock. Stop right there. Where do I sign up? As we carefully tread down The Narrow Line, Craneium’s grim yet stoner-friendly rock ’n roll fantasy, it is apparent that Finland has produced yet another vastly interesting group of young musicians. Set out on their first record, Craneium provide songs and images that will in fact become trapped within your cranium, and depending on where you stand on the mental scale, that can be a good thing… or great thing. It’s only bad if you don’t like rock ’n roll. Which if thats the case then I’m afraid we can’t help you there.
The debut record from these Finnish rockers shatters any doubt when the opening hook and harshly driven bass section of “Manifest” kicks in, dragging the listener into a hypnotic void of good old fashion fuzz and overdrive. I’m immediately hit with a breath of fresh air (or, perhaps, bong smoke) as I realize the kind of listening experience I’m in for, and the kind of band Carneium is.. . that of one way to few and far between in most up and coming bands. Not being afraid to WRITE A SONG is something that seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle in these modern metal times. Relying on technicality and production over a bare bones rock and roll foundation seems to be more of the norm, but as far as Craneium can push the envelope, they never loose sight of their true classic metal song writing roots that of which are firmly support the album. Having that rock solid, classic rock n roll/heavy metal, foundation is something vital that cannot be ignored and argued against. You can’t build your epic castle of soaring riffs, shredding solos, epic metal choruses without your simple rock solid foundation. Through all the “psych” terminology and distortion pedals all you want at it, it won’t stay standing. Rest assured, Craneium never loose sight of this. Easy to see why they chose “Manifest” as the opener and a single, as it is a perfect summary of their sound in general. Aside from being just a cool and catchy track, proudly wearing their old school influences on their sleeve, and welding genres together with some Finland mysticism.. it is the perfect summary of their unique and warping sound in general. So much so that it’ll beg you to listen to the rest of the record, and you should definitely do just that.
“I’m Your Demon,” the second single off the record takes a somewhat unexpected direction… they slow it down. A little. For the ladies, I’m only assuming. Revving up the blues and the groove and locking into that dark, hypnotic, post-rock reminiscent grind, Craniuem still manage to provide a catchy haunting metal tune that showcases their musicianship. The song has a captivating quality about it due to not only its interesting arrangement but instrumentations patterns that’ll throw ya for a loop, sucking you in, so to speak; as the vocals provide an epic sounding contrast to the tune. Just like with any classic heavy metal band, the guitar and the vocals are the two aspect that really rear their ugly head through the psychedelia and the darkness. The high end tone of the six sting just cuts through the buttery mix, spreading itself somewhere between fuzz and blues yet at times cleaner and (dare I say) prettier sounding. Rolled up with a little stoner-metal influenced clean singing lurking amongst the grimly contrasted and sounding tune, it makes it to be something special.
As we venture in to “Beyond the Pale” and further into this sonic arrangement of doom, it becomes more apparent that Craneium are not ones to stay locked into a certain sound and are definitely not afraid to tread new waters within their realm of rock n roll. They are definitely no Rush, but prog territory is definitely treaded on, as well as Pink Floyd, as well as the ever-present and obvious Sabbath, and I even notice a hint of some Motörhead on the overdriven bass.. my point being as much as I can derive other band’s sounds from theirs, they make it their own. And it makes for a very rewarding and simply put cool listening experience. The rock from the post-rock, ambient, vibes all the way to fist-in-the-air, percussion and power chord heavy choruses in one fell swoop. Tracks like “Soothsayer” are a nice nostalgia trip into the early, mystical days of heavy metal, where they would’ve thought to have been reciting black magic in the forests.. as well as laying down tasty riffs. And staying true to the classic metal vocals works very well for most of the tunes, except I can’t help think they’d benefit from having JUST A LITTLE more raw, harshness and aggressiveness to them. The same could be argued for all of their music in general, actually. As the album progresses into its final tracks “Redemption”, “The Goat”, and the conclusion of “Man’s Ruin” ; I can’t help but think they get just a tad too repetitive as I found myself slightly jaded. Please note this as a very minor (hopefully constructive) criticism, as this record is absolutely awesome awesome. I just feel THAT much more kick, and some metally balls of fire will add some more dynamic range to the mix would do them a world of wonders. But, the fact is they are heavily driving home their transient doom vibe, which is nothing to complain about, as they vibe totally rocks. Complete with awesome black magic induced imagery in the album artwork like sprinkles on top. AND THEY CAN WRITE FUCKING RIFFS.
All in all, I most definitely highly recommend this album to anyone that is a fan of classic rock n roll and/or heavy metal (which should be all of us). Aside from it being at times a little tooo drowsy and monotoned for what I believe it could be, it is an intelligent and cool arrangement of music from these Finnish wizards. I greatly look forward to their next release, as this showed magnificent potential. They undoubtedly continue to exhibit solid songwriting ability and undeniable musicianship throughout this interesting slice of rock and roll, and that’s something to be recognized.
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