"Across The Dark River" is the debut album from Swedish band Below and they are yet another example of a label signing a group with a minimal track record, in this case the culprit is Metal Blade. Of course, once I found out they play epic doom metal, a style for which I have a great deal of devotion, it was almost inevitable that I would have to invest in a copy even if I did miss their split release with Anguish from last year.
It doesn't take too long into opener "Trapped Under Ground" to realise that one of their major influences is Candlemass, not that this would come as any surprise given the style of music they play, and Below do an admirable job of emulating their forebears. The riffs are suitably dense and monolithic with just enough melody to carry them forward, vocals soar over the top and there are choirs, strings and keyboards to add valuable texture.
As you would expect, everything about "Across The Dark River" has that professional sheen associated with a label such as Metal Blade from the cover art, which is simple yet effective, through to the clarity of sound courtesy of Andy LaRocque, who also contributes a guitar solo to "Ghost Of A Shepherd". There really is little to fault and it doesn't hurt that epic doom is a style of metal where there is an established formula and Below stay successfully within these confines.
In all honesty this is anything but original and adheres to tradition however, given my love for epic doom metal, I couldn't help but enjoy "Across The Dark River" as it contains all the necessary elements to be a qualified success. As the aforementioned Candlemass are slowly going into hibernation and Solitude Aeturnus continue to frustrate me with inaction "Across The Dark River" will amply fill the void as Below clearly have a devotion to respectfully reproducing a classic sound.