Released: 2017, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Below is a Swedish doom metal band, so of course both you and I can be forgiven for immediately thinking of comparisons to Candlemass. Even more so since these guys really do sound a lot like Candlemass, and I've no doubt that's intentional. But instead of being a poor imitation, Below manage to not only sound like a band of their own (albeit one of the same genre), but make some really damn fine doom metal too.
Right at the forefront are Zeb's (Sebastian Jansson) vocals, the absolute highlight of the album. His singing is honestly pure gold for this genre, they're mournful without sounding dull or tired, they're epic and grandiose without ever feeling like he's trying too hard. It's all got just the right amount of metallic drive behind it, and he's not only capable of some truly mighty Halford-esque wails, but knows exactly when to throw one in.
The vocals are the highlight, but certainly not the only good thing on show here. They're perfectly backed up with solid riffs, blazing solos and perfectly doomy rhythms. "1000 Broken Bones" and "Suffer in Silence" are two of the catchiest doom songs I've heard in years, instantly grabbing you, immersing you and forcing you to hammer along with pitch-perfect pacing. The longer tracks paint epic apocalyptic vistas, gloomy portraits of the sky cracking open and Death riding down (much as the title track says) upon his pale steed. Everything is spiced up with those classic metal vocal and guitar flourishes we all so enjoy. Put simply, this is one of those albums that reminds you why this kind of metal is something you love in the first place.
Upon a Pale Horse isn't breaking any moulds, this is epic doom metal as you've almost certainly heard it before. But the important thing is it's -good- doom metal, it's done right, the music holds the listener's attention and the band understands how to write good songs in this style. Every song, long or short, goes on just long enough, never outstaying its welcome or content to just ride a single riff for the entire time. If you're a doom fan in general, this album has more to offer than many other lesser known bands, and I'd certainly recommend trying it. Keep an eye on Below in the future.