When thinking about Doom Metal, it’s highly unlikely that your mind goes straight towards Osaka, Japan. But since forming in 2012 two guys performing under the name BlackLab have been on a mission to change that.
Named after Black Sabbath and Stereolab and crafting songs best listened to in a darkened room BlackLab are back with the cheerily titled Abyss. And yes, in case you were wondering, it is every bit as dark, gloomy and downright hellish as the title suggests.
If you’re looking for an album to live with, and put on while you’re doing the housework, then you’re going to need to go elsewhere, because this record needs to be experienced. It’s moodier than a teenager when the WIFI goes down, and takes the listener to some seriously dark places, whether you want to go or not.
It should come as no surprise that a band named after Black Sabbath leans on their influence in a major way, but their DNA is all over this album. It would be churlish to suggest that opener ‘Insanity’ is early Sabbath with a fuzz pedal, but in places it really isn’t far off. The band capture a feeling of impending doom with sublime perfection with the screaming and pained vocals adding to the deathly feeling. For the most part it’s a superb track but at the same time it feels like it builds to a crescendo that simply doesn’t arrive. It builds and builds and builds and then, nothing.
This isn’t a problem that only afflicts the opening track either, it’s a problem which drags down the entire first half of the album. Doom Metal isn’t exactly known for its stunning tempo changes and melodic shifts, but even so, the first half of the album is horribly one paced. Each song blends a little too seamlessly into the next and does little to standout.
However, all is not lost, as on halfway ‘Forked Road’ flips the script in fine style. It’s a whirlwind of thundering chaotic distortion, and it is absolutely magnificent. From the tempo changes, to the vocals and the guitar work, everything is damn near perfect. Along with the final track ‘Sun’ this is the highlight of the album by a considerable margin. While the Stoner influenced ‘Chained’ and ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ tinged ‘Sleepless Night’ also do their bit to continue the album’s upward curve.
At times Abyss can be a demanding listen, and somewhat difficult to love. The first half of the album while being completely inoffensive, simply doesn’t catch fire. It just exists. But from ‘Forked Road’ onwards the duo cut loose and the album improves dramatically as a result. Instead of being the coming out party that it promised to be, in much the same vein as earlier releases, Abyss highlights once again what the band could go on and become. Make no mistake, buried beneath all of the fuzzy, Stoner heaviness there is an incredibly talented band. But to really take the next step the pair need to showcase that talent much more consistently than they do here.