Shadows of the Shapeless
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When a description reads, "Six Hundred and sixty six possessed Orange Amps under water," chances are, I will give it a whirl. Kongh, a doom metal outfit hailing from, you guessed it, Sweden formed in 2004 with three individuals from different musical backgrounds with one goal in mind, to be as loud as humanly possible while having as much fun as they could. Simple enough, yet as so many in this genre try hard and fall short, the Swedes seem to have what it takes to bring this music to fruition each and every time. Mark my word, there must be something that Swedish parents feed their children or elements added to the drinking water to give them the ability to make the music that they do. In addition there must be a massive stockpile of vintage Orange Amplifiers in each community center and as each young person chooses to pick up a guitar or bass, they are automatically given some of the best sounding amps in existence with some of the crunchiest, meatiest tone that you will find across the globe. In the past six years, I can't tell you how many Swedish bands have blown me away with some of the best heavy music out there, including Witchcraft, Graveyard, Horisont, and now Kongh whose newest album Shadows of the Shapeless was just released on Seventh Rule Recordings.
As noted above, the three members of Kongh come from a variety of backgrounds and simply want to be big, loud and have fun when making the music that they make. What comes across is a highly intelligent mix of doom, black, and experimental heaviness that keeps things fresh and interesting without boring the listeners with the same-old-same-old drones that so many other similar bands' sounds rely on today. What first jumps out with Shadows of the Shapeless is the great mixture of darkness and light and the corresponding contrasts that are exhibited on this record. This tension and release is especially present in the guitar work of David Johansson in that he has carefully crafted his playing to range from both heavy and distorted to pretty and clean. This dichotomy serves each song extremely well in opening up the arrangements and giving the listener some variance from the expected slow dirge and mammoth assault that comes with most doom metal outfits. Johansson's vocals also vary from being raspy and harsh to more melodious sections that are sung rather than screamed, each being placed in just the right sections as the music needs at the time. This duality of Kongh brings to mind early Neurosis and even Opeth at certain points, bringing both thunderous brutality and beauty into their music as they add dimension to the overall experiences associated with the band itself. Drummer Tomas Salonen is an extremely tasteful player who knows just when to throw a swing feel on a certain section and a primitive pounding on another. Rounding out the rhythm section, bassist Oskar Ryden remains mostly in the lower register, filling the gaps with rumble and thus providing the perfect root bass playing that a trio of this caliber needs.
With only five songs, Shadows of the Shapeless clocks in just below the one hour mark, giving each track the time it needs to be developed without being monotonous and boring. All three members of Kongh perform an integral part in keeping the music structured yet organic, allowing the songs to breathe and gain volume, momentum, and intensity at all points necessary. This gives the entire record a continuous flow that connects all five tracks together as one cohesive piece of music that proves itself as a strong album time and time again. With both their music and direction, Kongh reminds me a great deal of Yob, a heavy American three-piece powerhouse and I would almost bet all my chips on the fact that Yob has had a large influence on this band and their sound. Nothing at all wrong with that though, because you can't get much heavier than the mighty Yob and the impact that they have had on the doom scene.
As a whole, this album is very heavy and great addition to Sweden's stellar roster of metal bands. The only bad thing about this album being so good is the fact that, like most heavy music coming from this particular area of the globe, it might be several years before we can actually see Kongh live. Oh well, until then we can just throw on Shadows of the Shapeless and make our walls shake and windows rattle until the neighbors call the authorities. -Andrew Bryant