I’m probably repeating myself, but the warm, fuzzy tones of the Boss Heavy Metal pedal don’t set my heart aflutter like they used to. I’ll always have a soft spot for the originators of the Stockholm sound, but as time goes on, I find I have less and less interest in the ceaseless flood of imitators, regardless of their quality.
However, with its debut Rituals, Crawl has managed to give my ticker a jump. It helps that Crawl is actually a Swedish band, and it also helps that Crawl brings something a bit different from standard Entombed/Dismember worship. But most of all, Crawl plays some lean, mean death metal.
Crawl’s take on the classic Swedish death sound mixes in a little crusty hardcore influence. This isn’t entirely novel, as fellow Swedes Miasmal are pretty liberal with the d-beats, and across the pond Black Breath has been producing some hardcore-informed Swedish-styled death for several years now. However, Crawl puts its own no-nonsense spin on the form. Rituals is in most of the ways that matter a death metal album, but a little noisier, and a good deal more succinct than most. With most of its tracks under three minutes in length, Rituals is short on bullshit, but pretty long on riffs. While I would not be so brash as to call Rituals a death metal Reign in Blood, the albums share a similar combination of intensity and brevity.
Label: Transcending Obscurity
With its short tracks, one might assume that Rituals is filled with up-tempo material, and while it has its fair share of speed, where this record really shines is in the break-downs and the mid-paced grooves. Opener “Reject the Cross” establishes a pattern of closing tunes with a breakdown, dishing out one of the sickest Swedish death riffs to hit the market since Dismember hung it up. “Sentenced to Rot” grinds out its final minute with a blissfully ignorant, knuckle-dragging, floor-punching groove so potent you’re liable to break some furniture before it’s through, and “The Stench” is practically a tutorial in mid-paced brutality, closing with a similarly subtle-as-a-sledge-hammer groove.
One could call Rituals meat-and-potatoes death metal, but really, there aren’t even any potatoes. Melody on Rituals is scarce; solos are absent entirely; and Crawl isn’t much for harmony, either. However, the band does know how to slip in those short little licks like the one at 2:04 in “Reject the Cross” that really put the perfect finishing touch on a riff.
Crawl has an uncanny knack not only for writing great riffs, but also for maximizing the impact of those riffs through dynamic arrangements and exuberant performances. Rituals is a thoroughly satisfying twenty-five minutes. The album may seem like an EP in run-time, but it has a full-length’s worth (and more) of quality riffs. The Stockholm sound is getting old, but in the hands of Crawl, it is anything but tired.