PICK OF THE WEEK: Sons of Crom sharpen swords, tell bloody old stories on ‘Riddle of Steel’

Sons of Crom bandI had a birthday this week, and fairly monumental one, and a thought that kept coming to me was that I outlived Quorthon. Isn’t that a strange thing to think about? But here I was, out at night, staring at the moon, waiting for my dog to answer nature’s call, and pondering existence. Where might metal be if he remained?

That also got me thinking about bands that followed in that man’s gargantuan footsteps, some who did it right and some who lost their way. Maybe in the back of my head I was thinking about how I had the debut record from Sons of Crom ready to discuss in today’s Pick of the Week spot and about how they really remind of me of the spirit Quorthon and Bathory left behind. And that’s not to suggest they’re copiers or don’t have their own unique traits that make them special, because they certainly do. But they give me that sense of primitive wildness, of setting out in the wilderness on my own to find adventure, of building campfires at night while tales of warriors of old are traded to wide-eyed listeners. You also can name check Enslaved, Falkenbach, and Summoning.

Sons of CromThe band’s debut full-length “Riddle of Steel” has plenty of that metal-clashing yarn spinning, as it follows a warrior down his own path, as he battles psychological and physical opponents, fights to find his way, and encounters death and destruction most people can’t imagine. It’s a classic tale in a way, one that fits so snugly deep in metal lore. It’s fantastical, enthralling, and tragic, and it grabs you from the beginning of the record and pulls you through the entire drama. That’s a major tip of the cap to the band members Iiro Sarkki (vocals, drums) and Janne Posti, who put together this fascinating, surging slab of Viking metal that’s played with true heart and the purest of intentions, with blood still dripping from their battle axes.

Our saga begins with “Myrarfar,” which has a cool black metal-style opening, airy guitar work, searing keys, and gritty clean vocals. The song runs into some cleaner playing, chanted group vocals, and then a sweeping chorus that could cause your blood to surge. It’s a great, spirited opening. “Master of Shadows” lets the guitar melodies soar, with the vocals taking command and driving through the verses with glory. The musical progression is really exciting and enthralling, with growls later kicking in, acoustic passages adding texture, and a wintry feel taking hold. The end of the track blows back open with more forceful guitars and massive singing. “Golden Gates” pulls things back a bit, reminding a bit of Opeth’s current mind frame. The acoustic picking leads into the line, “All of my debts are settled,” making you feel like a crucial part of the tale is at hand. The singing gets deeper and more solemn, and when the line, “The mountains have called, and I will answer,” drops, you know you’ve hit pivotal terrain.

“Call of the Black Mountain” naturally follows, with heavy, charged-up guitar riffs, creaky vocals that are met by spirited singing, thick keyboard clouds, and drums that rumble your bones. “Cimmerian Dance” goes the Euro folk route, with strong metallic riffs trading places with a dance shuffle-style melody that makes me think of a night of drinking and dancing following a long day at battle. It’s a really fun track. “Victory” is a 12:12-long epic that acts as a climax of sorts, opening with acoustic strains and earnest vocals before the song twists toward whipping winds and hammering playing. The music takes its time and plods along in its pace telling its tale, with the vocals taking on different personalities, from mournful to violent. Different streams of sounds keep spilling into the song, keeping things fresh and rushing, and a monologue that comes in at the end seems to put a bloody exclamation point at the conclusion of the song, with war and death thick and stinking in the air. Closer “Seven Spells (The Riddle of Steel)” is a quiet, reflective instrumental that sounds like a requiem for what just transpired and lets you close the book gently, as you absorb what just transpired.

Like the character in their album, Sons of Crom still are forging their own path in the metal world and surely will do battle with any forces standing before them. “Riddle of Steel” is a great record that follows their very promising EP “Victory,” and it ensures we still have some great storytellers in our realm. Every adventure with this record is breath-taking, sometimes turbulent, and occasionally beautiful, and it’s going to be a real joy to behold during these upcoming cold autumn nights when only a dark ale can keep me warm inside.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/sonsofcromofficial?ref=ts&fref=ts

To buy the album, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/

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