Don’t let the half-belched, guttural vocals of Swedish black metal band Firebreather’s new album Under a Blood Moon – streaming at Bandcamp – put you off. Their songs have an intensity that’s sometimes ornate and classically-inspired, at other times falls into the hallowed Sleep-like canon of post-Sabbath bands, and also has a hypnotic postrock sensibility. There are echoes of vintage Iron Maiden as much as Mastodon but also, maybe, Russian Circles at their most expansive. This band loves long songs: pretty much everything here is in the eight minutes-plus area. Yet guitarist Mattias Nööjd’s solos are shockingly brief and concise: imagine, an epic guitar band that actually likes to make their notes count for something.
The first track, Dancing Flames is a web of enveloping, sinister chromatic chords that go on for almost eight minutes before a haphazardly bluesy guitar solo. A sludgy one-chord intro to the second cut, Our Souls They Burn, morphs into a dense, almost-galloping, menacingly hypnotic theme fueled by bassist Kyle Hagman and drummer Axel Wittbeck. If you can’t get enough of chromatics, this song is for you.
Closed Gate is built around a deliciously slinking, syncopated minor-key bluesmetal riff. The album’s fourth track, titled Firebreather, comes across as a haphazardly Nordic mashup of Iron Man and Iron Maiden.
It’s on We Bleed, which could be a a Thee Oh Sees garage-psych number with tighter instrumentation, that the vocals become impossible to ignore: let’s get real, beyond the music, can anybody actually take this shit seriously? The final cut, The Siren is the closest thing to Mastodon here: it ends as it comes in, with a shriek. Happy early Hallowen, everybody