Album Review: Blacklands by Castle
Posted by RiffRaff
Call it a fad, a trend, hype, or whatever, but this recent explosion of female fronted doom metal is sweet candy to my ears. Big fat Sabbath-ian riffing, mysterious and occult themes, groovy rhythms, and a good ol’ rock and roll feel just get my blood pumping and head banging and the clean female vocals are a great break from all gruff angry guy vocals I spend the rest of the day listening to. Now, when a big deluge of bands rush in during a sub-genres hype and some real quality bands tend to get lost in the mix (see the metalcore debacle). One band I’d really hate to see get lost in the wave of oncoming bands is Castle. Their second album, Blacklands, is chock full of all the previously mentioned things that I love about this new ‘fad’ plus the record features a nice diverse set of tunes that really make great use doom metal sound.
From the get go, Castle wastes no time getting in with the rocking out as the intro track “Ever Hunter” delivers fat bass driven riffing paired with the sultry and very fitting voice of vocalist/bassist Elizabeth Blackwell. The production also hit me right away with that ‘recorded in an autumn colored, shag carpet lined, surrounded by Orange Amps’ analog sound. Yes, I am aware that some bands use this as a trick to give their music a more old school feel, but with Castle it feels a lot more organic than kitschy. But not content to rest their laurels on the forward driving, riff based rock style, the following song, “Corpse Candles” shows that Blacklands isn’t going to settle for standard.
With bouts of proggy riffing and thundering low ends, “Corpse Candles” creates a dark and mysterious atmosphere rife with occult undertones. The transitioning between the slow-paced refrain sections to the high paced choruses create a nice flowing dynamic that all gets top off with a great guitar solo courtesy of Matt Davis. Sticking with the ‘keep it fresh’ ethos, Matt Davis borrows the mic from Elizabeth and takes the main vocals duty for “Storm Below the Mountain” as melodious and boot-stomping riffing and rhythms play along with him. From there on in the two trade-off on vocal duties always making it a point to not steal the spot light from the other but still keep each tune unique and fresh.
As the album continues a berth of various riffs, tempos, and angles pervade each track. Having a diverse array of doom metal on the record kept me engaged from start to finish and the record didn’t once fall into the boring and monotonous regions that many doom metal albums do. I feel that is also in part to the focus on crafting more mid to high tempo songs in lieu of the slower, brooding ones, the genre is famous for.
If you dig on riff driven bands like The Sword, Christian Mistress, or Ozzy-era Black Sabbath give Blacklands a listen, I’m sure you will be pleased. While a bit on the short side (35:40) there is definitely quality over quantity here. The songs are memorable, have tons of hooks, and are well structured and performed, so you certainly get your moneys worth. Peace Love and Metal!!!