Sometimes I find myself sticking to the confines of a specific musical genre when looking for music to listen to, often for a specific sound and style that suits my mood at the time. The bands I often gravitate to in those times, whilst they have their own respective and unique sounds and influences, tend to revolve around the particular sound and style of their genre, whether it be Thrash, Death, or a cheeky bit of Prog every now and then. But, whilst at times it may be rather easy to box one’s self into the confines of specific metal sub-genres (and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that), it can be really refreshing to find a band taking bits and pieces from genres a-plenty, and making it their own. And in Rising’s latest release: Sword and Scythe, that sentiment has been executed fantastically.
Rising, forming in 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark, describe themselves as “epic metal”, with a wide array of influences from older 70s hard, progressive and psychedelic rock, to more modern doom and sludge, but also incorporating melodic and atmospheric sounds into their musical style. With their fourth studio album, Sword and Scythe, it is abundantly clear just how seamlessly the band has incorporated all of these elements into a unique but familiar style.
The performances on the album are exemplary, and nothing seems out of place. The rhythm guitars at times are nice and heavy, but also throughout the album compliment the melodies and atmospheric passages really nicely. The sound of the guitars is thick, and fits perfectly in the mix, and the playing itself is tight and sometimes rather deceptively technical. Melodic embellishments that fit with what is going on in the rest of the song is a great touch, but is never intrusive, just enough for a nice flourish of colour. And the lead guitars genuinely surprised me with the skill on display. Fast, but tasteful, there is nothing that isn’t needed.
The bass and drums, whilst not being all that technical, are also performed well and compliment the rest of the music, tonally and stylistically. The bass guitar is wonderfully prominent in the mix, and the drums fit just where they needed to as well, nothing to bright or thuddy, reminiscent of some older heavy metal bands, but also some doomier elements.
And along with the guitars, the vocal work is right up there as the star of the show. All the atmosphere, harmonies and melodic depth really dwells within the vocal performance. It isn’t a massive wall of sound that you’d see in some other progressive acts *cough cough Devin Townsend cough*, but that’s not what the music was going for in the first place. Something I like is that stylistically everything just displays a simplistic elegance and character that feels so familiar with many doom acts, but also with the flair of 70s rock. It just fits.
The songwriting and structure, again, feels like a seamless marriage of multiple influences and genres. Some parts of the album display some really chuggy, palm muted, heavy guitars with some more menacing and eerie vocals, only to transition into these airy, atmospheric choruses with some great arpeggiated guitars and layered, catchy harmonised vocals flawlessly. A great example of these twists and turns is throughout the song Salted Earth, that features some great, heavy guitars and foreboding, heavy vocals, transitioning into some great harmonised soaring guitars, and then into a blistering solo, only to pull itself back again into the final lines of the song with some great, atmospheric singing and droning guitars. Those transitions just fit flawlessly, and just make perfect sense in context with the song. The songs throughout the album all sound unique, with their own twists and turns, but not once does it get difficult to listen to, fatiguing or pretentious.
Sword and Scythe is a fantastic breath of fresh air for anyone that enjoys metal and rock music. Instead of sounding confused like one might expect with so many styles and influences on the table, it feels so confident in itself and has carved its own unique, yet familiar sound. All in all, all I can say at the end is just