The world of trad doom has felt like it was lacking in recent years. With Pilgrim in a seeming stop-start limbo, Reverend Bizarre broken up and Pentagram apparently heading towards the end, we have needed a new savior to guide this music forward. Such is the position of Below, a band whose latest offering Upon A Pale Horse sees the group taking the crown of traditional doom metal masters and assuming the mantle. This is a record that features some top notch songwriting, soaring vocals and a crunching bottom end that you can't help but to love. The transcendent might of this album ebbs and flows throughout, all driven by a strange sense of forward motion that winds its way under your skin and helps to make Upon A Pale Horse so goddamn addictive. Unafraid to touch on tropes or to engage in massive, Rob Halford-esque vocals, Below come through time and time again with your old school doom fix, driving the whole genre towards a new generation of fan.
I think it's important to be aware though, Below aren't just another trad doom band playing pentatonic riffs and a half decent singer who know they can win over the hearts of nerds like me. Their production is perfection, with layers upon layers coming together in order to consistently charm the listener and remind us why we fell in love with this music in the first place. On top of that, while the songwriting certainly hearkens back to the 80's and wears its influences on its sleeve you also hear elements of much more modern genre expanding bands like Pallbearer, Yob, or even my favorites, Subrosa. There is a lot to dig in to with every individual track here. The acoustic parts are wonderfully put together, the drums sound massive and the leads are clearly a labor of love. The sheer amount of work that went into this release is stunning and it proves again and again that Below aren't just another derivative group who like to sing about witches and wizards. They are an artistic force in and of themselves.
I think that when it comes down to it, the truly impressive thing about Below is the sheer amount of talent in the band. Upon A Pale Horse slowly unravels itself over the course of eight tracks and the key realization that you have time and time again while spinning this record is 'Holy shit this band is goddamn good!' They have realized an immense travail with this release and it seems to constantly grow stronger and prouder. Sure they touch on some truly narmy moments in tracks like "Upon A Pale Horse" with its corny voiceover, but at the same time, the way that the band lovingly hints at these tropes only serves to make them more endearing. You hear the band tearing out intense intros, triumphantly crafted choruses and so much more and you slowly realize that Below are for real. They love what they do and want to share this inherently dorky music with all of us.