Black Book Lodge

Tûndra

Written by: AP on 01/03/2014 18:43:22

Black Book Lodge first blipped on our radar in 2012, their "Legion" EP harvesting rave words from our editor-in-chief. But it wasn't until a support slot at one of Helhorse's concerts last year that they re-emerged with the promise of an imminent debut album. That effort landed in stores two weeks ago, but given it has the potential to add invention to a genre holding its traditions dear, not to mention lead the way ahead of other Danish metal bands, it has taken me a little longer than usual to digest and assess its qualities.

Taking its title from the very Scandinavian natural phenomenon, "Tûndra" is also distinctly Nordic by its sound. Most people would agree that Black Book Lodge practice some variant of stoner or doom metal, but as the moody falsetto of guitarist Ronny Jønsson introduces us to the record at the beginning of "Battering Ram", there is the instant sensation that the trio - completed by bassist Trygve Borelli Lund and drummer August Vinther Ottsen - are foreigners in the genre. Once the distorted string bends and trudging rhythm section enter the frey one minute into the song, the impression that Black Book Lodge don't quite belong solidifies, the heavy use of reverb in the production of Jønsson's guitar and singing (reminicent, I find, of Chris Cornell), and the melancholy tone all suggesting they draw their inspiration from places much colder and more desolate than the scorching deserts and murky swamps most of their colleagues like to explore. Centerpiece "Thalassa" is an outstanding example of the frost and alienation to which the band's music gives rise.

Black Book Lodge do admit to a presence of Gothic culture in their music, and indeed, track two "Black Sheep / Prodigal Sons" betrays such influences with no ambiguity. Though it collapses into a section ridden with doomy grandeur around the halfway mark, its initial phase sounds to me an intriguing concoction distilled from equal parts A Pale Horse Named Death and Wes Borland's Black Light Burns (their song "4 Walls" in particular comes to mind). By infusing passages that are immediate in their rewards, the music of "Tûndra" is perhaps not as mind-altering as the typical work of Black Book Lodge's kin, just as they rely less on the capacity of riffs to carry the weight of a song, but on the other hand, there is hardly a track on this that isn't easy on the ear.

Whether or not it is worthy of the enormous praise heaped on it by most of the domestic media I will set up to debate, however. There is no doubt that with songs like the crushing "Call", the heaviest and most overtly stoning song on the LP, and the monolithic "Cripplegate", with its Shamanic lead riff and bulging occult atmosphere, Black Book Lodge know how to pen a brilliant song. But while strictly terrible picks are nowhere to be found on a record buoyed by its consistency and, above all, uniqueness, I still feel as though the trio has not realised its full potential in the same way that their compatriots in Helhorse did with last year's "Oh, Death", as with the exception of the four tracks listed below, none of "Tûndra" has, to me, the capacity to leave an impression fully immune to fading.

What deserves applause, however, is that Black Book Lodge are willing and able to challenge the conservatism that tends to plague the Danish metal scene and forge their own path - nothing like this has come out of the stoner/doom underground before. Mark my words: the sophomore record from this band will be a behemoth. They know now how to capture the attention of fans and critics alike, and it would be foolish to assume their song-writing will not have grown to an even higher plateau by then.

Download: Battering Ram, Black Sheep / Prodigal Sons, The Call, Cripplegate
For the fans of: Alice in Chains, Amplifier, Spirit Caravan
Listen: Facebook

Release date 17.02.2014
Mighty Music

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