Saturday 10 October 2015

Spelljammer - Ancient Of Days (Album Review)

Release date: October 2nd 2015. Label: Riding Easy Records. Formats: CD/DD/Vinyl

Ancient Of Days - Tracklisting

Meadow 11:51
Laelia 1:47
From Slumber 5:46
The Pahtfinder 8:27
Borlung 11:05

Band Members:

Robert Sörling - Guitars
Niklas Olsson – Bass/vocals
Jonatan Rimsbo - Drums


If there was ever to be an inventor of the stoner doom genre it could easily be Spelljammer that upon the launch of their first EP laid the ground pillars for this “stoomer” subgenre. Cardinal characteristic such as heavy as lead riffs, monolithic drumming, Richter-scale sized bass-rumbles and distant half-chanting half-screaming vocals.

First time I experienced the intergalactic extent of travelling the outer space with Spelljammer was in 2010 when their first EP took me for an audible trip in sky just a few Inches From The Sun. I nearly got burned back then and was scared for life by the heat so close to the brightest star in our solar system. And like all life’s existence on Earth depends on the vital solar rays, I too nourish from the soundscapes conjured by these Swedish overlords in über heavy space stoner doom.

I returned in 2012 for more of Spelljammer’s replenishing acidic rain of melodies and grooves just to find myself left cold and battered to pieces on a dark place atop of Aun’s Mountain. Vol II was a different tale boasting a darker and more doomy version of Spelljammer than was evident from their first outing, which was more on the stonier side. The imprint left with these two excellent pearls of amazing stoner doom called for a full length and the vinyl release of Vol II on the high-praised STB Records the following year did little to calm down the expectations of an imminent LP release. And then silence… Rumours of the guys have called it quits started circulating.

More than 3 years should pass before the Intergalactic unity of sonic destruction would resurface, now comprising a new drummer, Jonatan Rimsbo, and this time under the Riding Easy Records banner with the promise of new works under way. Anticipation started to build, expectations were sky-high. I think it’s safe to say that you need not to worry. The Spelljammer that I have come to love once again deliver the goods in a convincingly style.

Ancient Of Days is all that of an album one would expect and pray for them to deliver, forget about Monolord, forget about Acid King, forget about “insert band here”.

Meadow starts thing of with drawn-out guitars, pulsating, vibrating, waving from side to side, and pushing everything into motion. Tension builds and it becomes evident that something is on the way in the dark horizon as higher and higher waves of sound washes around you. The build-up lasts almost to the 3 minute mark where all energy is unleashed with a huge crash; enter dump-truck sized drums and bass lines with a magnitude designed to tear down houses.

Suddenly you find yourself floating in a syrupy sea of stoner grooves transporting you far into stoner doom heaven. This is a musical mind-fuck of the highest calibre. The track has a strong ebb-tide composition where the rock-solid stoner groove alternates with more quite psychedelic parts that give the song some great counterparts to the ever so massive grooving riffs. Once the spell is cast there is no turning back from their vibrating vacuum. It’s all about succumbing to the power of the massive soundwaves emanating from this super-massive black hole radiating high in a star lid sky without getting torn to pieces by the swirling razor-sharp riff. And before noticing the song is brought to a halt.

Only one track in, and already it feels like a long journey, meant in the most positive way, as at no point Ancient Of Days feel monotonous, perhaps due to the aforementioned ebb-tide effect or simply by the fact that this album is damn well executed. The second track Laelia, a short acoustic instrumental intermezzo, comes with perfect timing leaving enough time to pack your astronaut bag and check for supplies for the next astral journeys that lies ahead.

3rd track, From Slumber, starts of quiet and kind of ambient, with a much laid back approach oozing with an almost “Sleepy” atmosphere and an ever present Dopesmoker kind of vibe. In fact the first half of this track could easily have been found as a slight-return on said album. Second half takes off into space with swirling guitar flares bursting into the pitch black night sky while thick waves of bass-lines meander like hot molten lava underneath it all. At times Niklas Olsson’s voice almost menacing on top.

Comparisons aside, Spelljammer is doing stellar work on this track and slip-sliding the obvious traps of merely mimicking the genre’s greats. They instead create their own niche within the super-heavy space stoner doom and evolve from the notes stroked on their previous works.

The Pathfinder starts with feedback and after a quick scream it ready-on launches directly into another of Spelljammer’s monstrous signature stoomer grooves. This track embodies a lot of the best things from the Vol II EP’s and also includes some super-sweet bass leads scattered around the track that brings back the epic work of Geezer Butler to mind. Pathfinder is the stand-out track for me on the already impressive collection of songs that constitute Ancient Of Days. It has this sort of “driving” feel where everything works as a well-oiled engine pushing all elements forwards towards the inevitable end - although you never want it to end.

Album closer Borlung sets the scene for a space lord duel on a barren wind-swept planetary desert, where the two villains slowly are approaching each other as spacey samplings and ambient noises forewarn of a near clash between the duellists. Slowly circulating and attacking at once at the onset of the stoner machinery, the battle of Borlung has begun. And it’s a fight of epic proportions, through the next 11 and some minutes the serpentine bodied lord fights for his life.

The track turns and twists as the battle unfolds, spikes and blades fly high in the air above the surface of this futile planet. As Borlung finally manages to subdue his opponent the hymn slows down and the whole thing ends in a huge flash of light with the final beat of the drums. Verdict: A sonic tale of universal dimensions and clearly a contender for Top 10 of 2015.

Words by Niels Fuzz Bartholdy

Thanks to Dave at US/THEM PR Group for the promo. Ancient Of Days is now available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl from RidingEasy Records now.