2/20/2009 - Review by: Etiam
Having conquered essentially every realm of metal, it seems that Sweden's new thing is vintage art rock marketed to metal fans. Perhaps the movement's most famous name is Witchcraft, which has been masquerading as 'traditional doom metal' for years now and receiving rave reviews from all quarters. They may be partly responsible for priming the widespread metal audience for even tamer throwback groups such as Dead Man, also from Örebro, Sweden, who could pass as Witchcraft's milder, folk-loving kissing cousin. Another name worth mentioning is Graveyard, who would fill the familial in-between slot. Unsurprisingly, all three bands stem from Norrsken, a short-lived project in the 90s that featured members of all three groups.
While the other two bands have retained much of Norrsken's Sabbath-loving buzz, Dead Man have traded in their crucifix necklaces for flowers in their hair. Their organic creativity and authentic vibe is similar to Witchcraft, but is mostly absent of heavy bits, which would here seem overly agitated and awkward. 'Euphoria', their new album, is an eleven-track trek (or joyous flounce, rather) through a panoply of instruments--all members' voices, violins, traverse flutes, hand percussion, acoustic slide guitar, and enough rock in their folk to merit some overdriven chords now and again.
Altogether, its a palate that evokes early King Crimson's mellow side, The Moody Blues, and others from the late 60's rock scenes, right down to the drummer-boy snare sound. The lead vocals throughout the album are quite fluttery, reminiscent of Canned Heat during the driving-song groove of 'I Must Be Blind', while 'A Pinch of Salt' is a clear 'Lemon Song' homage. After noodling for half its length, 'Rest in Peace' does dip into a heavier riff and phased vocals, but is still heavy like Cream was heavy on 'Politician', not like Black Sabbath. 'High or Low' is one of the few catchy tracks--clearly the album's single--with its straightforward structure and infectious ascending riff. The album's real statement, however, comes from two sprawling centerpiece tracks that take up close to 20 minutes, swaying confidently from haunting guitar strophes to modal jams.
Dead Man are indisputably reminiscent of many classic artists, but they do not imitate their idols excessively. Indeed, none of the aforementioned bands ever put together a palette quite like this. The album is certainly euphoric, but in a composed manner that refrains from the sprawling immodesty of many jam-influenced bands. Perhaps the best recommendation of 'Euphoric' is its closing instrumental, 'July': though quite brief and not immediately a standout track, it defines the spirit of sleepy summer and distills Dead Man's bucolic charm.
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