Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Balam: Demo 2012

Drop the "L" (& an "A)

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

What makes a good doom record? As a long-time aficionado of the genre, I struggle a bit with the question because, candidly, Black Sabbath did it all from 1970 to 1975, laying Teutonic foundations for music that, 40 years on, doesn't really vary that much. Doom doesn't veer far from Iommi's foundations, and rightly so. If it does, we don't like it. Oh sure, there's variety, from the death crawl doom of early (and most recent) Cathedral to the gothic stylings of bands like Paradise Lost with the classical influenced doom of Candlemass somewhere in between. There's extremely slow (Sunn) and extremely heavy (Electric Wizard). And then there's Balam.

This demo is not extremely slow nor is it extremely heavy. But it's excellent and it's not easy for me to say why. The three songs here are all about 9-10 minutes in length and remind me of Reverend Bizarre. I hail that band as of the extremely slow variety (excepting Crush the Insects) but Balam are not extremely slow. The first track "The Following" starts that way, with a plodding riff of just the right heft. A slight increase in pace and weight about five minutes in is followed a few minutes later by a crushing, climactic conclusion. This is delicious doom in supersized but consumable portions. "Soul Scour" is up next and it's not slow either. It's another mid-paced, down-tuned gem of a doom song that plays out in reverse of "The Following": a mid-paced start leading to a slower, heavier conclusion. "Dark Door" is the 12 minute closer - a monster of variety and pacing, matching the heft of its riffs with the flow of pace changes. We get a plodding start, mid-paced movement, a brief, Cathedral-like psychedelic passage, followed by more up-tempo heft, an audio clip of witches pledging their allegiance to the lord of this world, and then a climactic solo. Enter fade . . .

And in 30 minutes, it's over. BAM! And I want to hear it again. Balam take Sabbath's doom foundations and pile them into a Reverend Bizarre-like homage to all great things doom. Without succumbing to the excesses of the genre Balam have managed a neat trick. They pound the familiar but keep it interesting. There's enough variety in the songs to warrant repeated listens but not so much that listening is a chore. I don't know much but I do know that a bad doom record makes difficult listening. Balam make for great listening, and great doom.

4 out of 5 stars.

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