"Shadows of the Shapeless"

(Seventh Rule)

01. Unholy Water
02. Essence Asunder
03. Tänk på Döden
04. Voice of the Below
05. Shadows of the Shapeless

RATING: 8/10

Right up Seventh Rule Recordings' alley, on "Shadows of the Shapeless", Sweden's KONGH bring the sludge/doom in a way that is expansive, even progressive, yet without resorting to meandering forays into the esoteric or riding the rails of pretension. The trio collectively swings a big ole club when the situation calls for it, then steps back, takes a few breaths, and travels down meditative side streets that never veer too far off the main route, resulting in an album that is refreshingly cohesive.

So what does all that fancy ass metaphor and journalist blather mean anyway? Does "Shadows of the Shapeless" enter the room with a gigantic, swinging pair of brass balls or is it all atmospheric hogwash? It is some of both, sans the hogwash part. KONGH does carry with it a freakishly big pair. The threesome demonstrates that they are more than capable of flattening humans like pancakes with bulldozer completeness. There are moments that also approach the smoke-billowing locomotive force of early HIGH ON FIRE and MASTODON, as well as the doom heaviness of SLEEP (e.g. "Voice of the Below").

But there is much more to "Shadows of the Shapeless" than jaw breaking, eye gouging, and femur splitting brutishness. In fact, there is even more emphasis on texture, coloration, and hypnotic flow across these five ambitious tracks (two of which clock in at 15 minutes each). Like any upper tier act, KONGH is adept at harnessing the power of compositional space and allowing arrangements plenty of room to breathe without allowing momentum to dissipate. Often it is a simple matter of taking the intensity down just a notch and riding through passages that feature the kind of airiness that one might hear on a PELICAN album ("Essence Asunder", the title track, and "Tänk på Döden"), while other sections feature a NEUROSIS vibe, albeit with the experimental end reigned in a bit.

Whether it the occasional cleanly sung (in a back of the mix, sometimes semi-chanted kind of way) part, the contrasting sections of light and dark, or the Sasquatch-sized, continental shifting riffs/rhythms, on "Shadows of the Shapeless" KONGH deftly strikes the balance between sludge/doom heft and colorful compositional diversity. Well done.


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