The Irish extreme metal scene is bustling at the moment, as anyone who’s witnessed a raft of excellent acts making the short hop across the water to perform at the UK’s most eminent outdoor extreme metal festival, Bloodstock Open Air in recent years, will gladly testify.
Last August one of the acts from the Emerald Isle to really make their mark at Catton Park was The Crawling. Remarkably for relative newcomers, The Crawling also managed to secure an invite to perform at Inferno in Norway, so one way or another they’re own brand of blackened death/doom has reached a wide audience over the past 12 months.
Now is the time for us to further familiarise ourselves with this Lisburn-based trio through the release of their eagerly anticipated debut album Anatomy of Loss. Having had a couple of singles already under their belt, any flaws have by now well and truly been ironed out and The Crawling are not pulling their punches with this release, the handling of which is being managed by Grindscene Records, themselves no strangers to extreme excellence from the metal underground.
This release sees seven tracks played out over 45 minutes and while the atmosphere is of course the colour of liquorice, that’s not to say there is no humanity within its varied grooves and well-chiselled cuts. Far from it. In fact Anatomy of Loss is an engaging release with a bigger pull than a farmers’ tug of war team. The grooves are sharp enough to open a can of beans, the drums vibrant and pulsing with the vocals commandingly husky.
You kind of know you’re onto something when the threatening rumble of opener ‘An Immaculate Deception’ surfaces like a sea monster from the deepest lagoon. When the vocals join in the filth layers are stacked higher still with frontman Andy Clarke growling out ‘I am the greatest lie I have ever told, they only see me after dark, when all is cold’. The tone is hauntingly oppressive and yet an acutely delivered riff saves this opening volley from totally drowning under the power of its own aural waves.
A steady beat leads into ‘Poison Orange’ one of the band’s longer numbers and a real exercise in Neanderthal doom. The song builds from a thumping repetitive start into a majestic composition in which the threads are neatly woven into the song’s fabric, a haunting riff echoing across the plain, with the vocals spoken assuredly as though soaked in satanic juices. The pace quickens around the punchier chorus but this track is so heavy that attempts to increase the tempo are almost futile. In fact such is the commanding job that The Crawling do here, that if they ever opted to focus purely on the doomier side of life they’d be ready made for the role.
But then one of the great things about these guys is their ability and penchant for mixing things up, making the casual labels of doom or death harder to pin to their well-worn leathers.
Take ‘Acid On My Skin’, and who would want that? But this song will raise the hairs on the back of your neck with its sense of urgency, vibrancy and meticulously crafted riff patterns with Andy roaring the question ‘If I tear out my eyes can you see?’ A razored riff takes the song surging towards a final pulsing climax so fevered you barely want it to end.
Aggression levels are upped on ‘All Our Failings’. Sparks fly in all directions at the start with a neck wrenching beat executed by Gary Beattie over which Stuart Rainey’s bass and Andy Clarke’s guitar mesh into a melting pot of agitated angst. The song rages this way and that but then takes on a meteoric fuelled uplift as a pummelling breakdown descends and an almighty sonic firestorm kicks in that they’ll still be hosing down this time next week.
Respite is needed and it follows instantly with the remarkable slowburner ‘Right To Crawl’ which features a dominating riff sharp enough to pick a lock and while the vocals revert to that melancholic heavy doom all around the rhythms ignite creating a full on twister of a track with the haunting riffage pattern prevalent throughout, somehow retaining its shape and definition as around it the very walls of the song start to crumble and disintegrate.
‘Violence, Vanity and Neglect’ features another elephantine riff, straight from the blackened pages of the Sabbath hymn book. The tone is immersive and depressive. But while the introspective gazing makes it feel almost intrusive to listen to, the wider creative cacophony of sound that embraces the song’s emotional heart make even this interminably forlorn number irresistible.
Album closer ‘Catatonic’ is the longest song on the album stretching to just over eight minutes in duration. The spartan opening echoes, are desolate indeed, almost conjuring up images of haunting 80s goth legends Bauhaus. The noise levels soon increase though but again the tempo is steady and well measured rather than overly frantic. The song carries real strength and courage, and the bleak and pained subject matter is swallowed whole by the gloom laden riffs and evenly placed drumming that mould ‘Catatonic’ into a masterful track, almost buckling at times under the sheer raw emotion of the content. As an album closer it leaves its indelible mark, a fitting closer to an outstanding debut album.
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