Switchblade make tumultuous doom, while Lento take a sludgy trip to space

Switchblade

We’ve kind of been poking in the eyes the “dead period” of music releases that is now through the beginning of 2013 because, for the most part, there’s not a whole lot going on and most people’s best-of lists already have been submitted. We don’t do that until mid-December simply because we want everything to get a fighting chance, and that’s paid off of late as we’ve had an opportunity to visit with some worthy late-year contenders.

A package was waiting for me in my mailbox a few weeks ago with some new promo CDs, a rarity these days as almost everything is serviced digitally, and it’s kind of cool to open up a thick envelope with tangible, physical product. The two discs were from Denovali Records, a German-based independent label that releases some pretty interesting, eclectic music from the likes of Aun, Blackfilm, Hidden Orchestra,  and Thisquietarmy, with whom we visited a few weeks back. It’s not a metal label exactly, though much of their music travels the outer perimeter of the genre, but they do have bands that belong comfortably in the environment. Today, we’ll look at two of those groups.

Switchblade and Lento are two bands that aren’t exactly on the tip of the tongues of most metal fans, even the most ardent underground enthusiasts, but they should be. Both are immersed in doom, though each band has its own unique take on the music and explores completely different atmospheres, and they each provide a unique breath of fresh air into the metal world, that really needs new thinkers more now than ever before. If you’re a little uninspired here in late November, gives these bands a go and see if that helps.

We’ll kick off with Swedish duo Switchblade, whose new self-titled album is not only their sixth overall, but their sixth with the same self-referential moniker. Has to be a little confusing if compiling the band’s catalog. “So, which Switchblade album are you looking for?” “Uh, the self-titled one…” Anyhow, no matter, they’re all pretty explosive and fun, and the new one continues the band’s path toward sludgy, doomy, abrasive expression that would sound great next to Sleep, High on Fire, or Neurosis.

A neat feature to the new record is the Switchblade dudes — guitarist Johan Folkesson and drummer Tim Bertilsson — are joined by former Opeth keys master Per Wiberg, who added a nice, amber-colored influence to the melodic death masters’ sound before bowing out of that band. He works nicely along the duo, dripping new, trippy colors into the group’s otherwise slow-driving, contemplative, organic doom that is presented in one sprawling, three-movement piece that demands your undivided attention. Also involved are The Cuckoo (Terra Tenebrosa) and David Johansson (Kongh, the Eternal Void) among others.

“Movement I” eases into the album, albeit heavily, while the song begins to simmer and the evil fires drive smoke into the air. There are some weird sections that either consist of voice samples or heavily effected vocals, but whatever they are, they’re damn creepy. “Movement II” is gloomy right from the start, with Wiberg letting his keys set an ambiance before the tracks grinds to pulverizing crawl. When it picks back up, growled vocals via Lord Seth (formerly Katatonia) are unleashed (the only drawback being they’re a little “Muppets”-esque) before winding down this middle portion with a trad doom approach. The final section is droning, purposely meandering, and awash in Black Sabbath fog. The song bruises and mangles, noise gurgles as if the composition is being strangled, and the band finishes you off with a violent, fist-pounding conclusion. Awesome stuff here.

Lento

Italian quintet Lento also likes their doom, but they head more toward atmospheric crunch and exploratory sludge. The band could find favor amongst those who pay homage to Pelican, Loincloth, or countrymates Ufomammut (with whom they recorded an album), as the instrumental band always finds ways to keep you guessing and tuned into their storytelling. The 13 cuts don’t stick around very long — the longest song is but 4:20, and the album is over in 40 minutes — proving that you don’t have to noodle on and on to make your point. In and out.

“Anxiety Despair Languish” is the third release from this band, with ominous cover art that looks like it could adorn a Deathspell Omega album, and the band — guitarists Donato Loia, Lorenzo Stecconi, and Giuseppe Caputo, bassist Emanuele Massa, drummer/effects artist Federico Colella — are channeled, sharp, and fully prepared to grab your dreams and keep them as they take you on devastating highs and easy, weird lows throughout the trip.

“Glorification of the Chosen One” kicks off the album with a spacious doom tip that’s also equally crushing and uplifting. That leads into “Death Must Be the Place,” a noisy, powerful cut that goes back and forth between gentle and crunchy; “Questions and Answers,” a pounding, pulverizing cut that’s generous on quality riffs; and “Blackness,” the first interlude on the record, a clean sort of jazzy transmission that gives you a breather. I just mentioned riffs. That’s something of which Lento bring plenty to the table. It’s their calling card, and each song on here has a nice guitar thread cutting through it to keep it stuck inside your head.

The title cut takes on an Iron Maiden-style power gallop, while “The Roof” visits Pelican wonders and Rush-style machination. “A Necessary Leap” is a sludgy punch to the side of your head; “Blind Idiot God” kicks things into even higher gear, with a thrashy, speedy assault that features some of the gnarliest playing on here; “Inward Disclosure” seeks answers in outer space and hidden-away science labs; while closer “My Utmost for His Highest” feels rejoiceful and cathartic, as the song chugs and surges toward its vibrant climax.

Both of these releases give you plenty to chew on, and most doom fans can meet in the middle and decide if they want to go more abrasive (Switchblade) or more cosmic and atmospheric (Lento). These bands prove that there is a lot of really great music lurking beneath the surface that might take some exploration to find, but it’s worth the effort. They also lay waste to the idea that music that pops up in stores in December isn’t up to snuff. These are late-year gems that’ll shine brightly well into next year.

For more on Switchblade, go here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Switchblade/276548808290?fref=ts

For more on Lento, go here: http://www.facebook.com/lento.icon?fref=ts

To buy the albums, go here: http://denovali.com/shop/index.php

For more on the label, go here: http://www.denovali.com/

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