Spelljammer’s new album Abyssal Trip is exactly that, a deep dive into the abyss with a title inspired by “the perpetually dark, cold, oxygen-free zone at the bottom of the ocean”. The Stockholm triumvirate of Robert Sörling (guitar), Jonatan Rimsbo (drums) and Niklas Olsson (bass/vocals) haven’t just played on this album as much as they have summoned up elemental forces to do their bidding; calling on the Gods of earth, water and wind to lay waste to any who would dare resist the tectonic power on display.
From the distant sirens and subterranean chords that open the album on ‘Bellwether’, this is a 43-minute battering of ground shaking tremors, hurricane winds and the kinds of extreme ocean pressure that would crush the spirit of anyone not robust enough to brace themselves for the collision. Guitar and bass often double up to create powerful foundations and, rather than compete with the backing, vocals are weaved into the overall sound as if they emanate from deep within the cavern and have a melancholy anger that vacillates between a howl and a religious evocation. The drums often play call and response with the guitar and bass, like a slow-motion Keith Moon (as on the title track), and at other times there is the full assault of kit rolls and a demonic battery of tom toms. Only on ‘Peregrine’ do we break free from these elemental forces and soar on guitar wings for a brief moment before plummeting back down into the heaviest track, ‘Silent Rift’, which closes the album with an infernal tangle of drones, riffs and drum rolls that could be the soundtrack to the end of days.
Spelljammer may be on the same branch of the dark metal family tree as Black Sabbath but have used their sonic palette to populate a landscape with the kinds of dark mysteries that Scandinavians seem to understand better than most people. The demonic drone of their music seems to hook up power lines, lay lines and deep-water currents to power the album, and if you prefer boat trips on the river Styx and reach for a Grimoire instead of Harry Potter then Spelljammer are for you.
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Review by Paul F Cook