Slave to the Grave may be rooted in the horror doom of Alastor’s 2017 EPs, but the Swedes have expanded their bag of tricks with the change of format. Songs like “Your Lives are Worthless” and the title track are packed with the same grinding Electric Wizard/Windhand worship, but they may have let some Cathedral slip in if “NW 588” is anything to go by. There’s even room for organ meandering on “Drawn to the Abyss” and an acoustic jam in the form of “Gone.”
Fortunately, Alastor has the chops to pull it off and the album has a balanced enough mix to highlight all the performers. As expected with the style, the guitar takes charge with a warm, fuzzy tone but the vocals manage to stand out with some enjoyably hazy patterns. The drums also have a loose but confident swing to them and the bass is solid overall, even if I find myself wishing that it had a more prominent spot in the mix.
The songwriting also works well with the different styles. The riffs on songs like “Your Lives Are Worthless” and “Drawn to the Abyss” pretty much write themselves, but the groove keeps them from feeling too played out. A few of the slower psychedelic segments run a little too long and the vocal delivery on “Gone” stumbles at times, but the band’s experiments manage to pay off for the most part. Even “The Spider of My Love” shows off some sweet We Live-era Wizard vibes through its seventeen-minute runtime.
Overall, Alastor’s first full-length album shows a lot of growth while making a good first impression on its own terms. It isn’t a doom classic and doesn’t break too much new ground, but some great production and adventurous songwriting make it superior to most of its competition. The band is likely to find greater success with further experimentation but in the meantime, this should sit well with fans of groups like Windhand and Beastmaker.
“Slave to the Grave”
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