Alastor – “Onwards and Downwards” (RidingEasy)
Battle Helm Rating
Formed only in 2016, this Swedish stoner doom band have already released 2 EPs and their debut full length, stoking plenty of interest for this classy sophomore! Unsurprisingly influenced by the pandemic and its effects on mental wellbeing, “Onwards and Downwards” reflects the posture of the band, although not in their composing or performance, which if anything has tightened right down to recruiting a new drummer in Jim Nordström. Continuing to work with Joona Hassinen of Studio Underjord, who has helped with mixing since their ”Blood on Satan’s Claw” EP in 2017, the sound is massive and booming, allowing the twin guitars of Hampus Sandell and Johan Björmander to drone it out in down tuned glory along with the shit heavy bass of Robin Arnryd, whose youthful soul shines through his grooving vocals. While the stoner side of the band rolls it out nicely, it was their heavy doom that really grabbed me right from the ominous musty riffs to opener ‘The Killer In My Skull’ with Nordström’s drums pounding and cymbal smashing in the background before settling into a thick Southern groove led by Arnryd’s laid back croons and touched off by a subtle organ – nice. Exquisitely mixing stoner and doom on ‘Dead Things In Jars’ the dirty fuzzed guitars reverberate to the sonic boom of Arnryd’s bass in superb style as Nordström hammers it out once again, and all to another big, bountiful rocking stoner doom groove while the hallucinogenic effects are induced by the abundant melancholic and mind-bending guitar work that comes into its own on the second half of the song, which is essentially an instrumental! Combining a classic doom riff with a rolling stoner groove on the title track ‘Onwards and Downwards’, the combined effects of all the instruments – along with that organ – make the atmosphere nothing short of epic and thanks to Hassinen’s sound, the fuzz density is at truly smog proportions as Arnryd’s wails sound like they’re being carried in the wind, as indeed you are on this magnificent near 10-minute piece. A superb performance along with excellent songs, “Onwards and Downwards” only shows a band destined to ascend majestically.