Switchblade – Switchblade III

Switchblade – Switchblade III (Trust No One Recordings)

Swedish band Switchblade belongs to the kind that sets the groundwork for something both unique and inspiring: their music is veiled in a hazy, mysterious and awe-inducing atmosphere.

Back in 2003 I was already taken aback by their also self-titled first album and since then I keep my eye on their progress. Their obsession with this stark, minimal approach to music, in paths that bands like Breach had first set, had me orbiting around them. The transformation in their two-track, awesome 2006 release, that included even darker and melancholic melodies, while limiting the speed to doom-metal levels, showed that these guys had a lot more to say. And so it happened. Nobody could predict the road they’d take and, myself, I don’t know where to start. This is going to be a challenging task, just like Switchblade’s latest offering.

First of all, the album is comprised of a 49-minute track, divided in three parts. It’s really difficult for a band to pull off such a large track without boring the listener, becoming flat or testing your tolerance. But these guys know very well their what’s and how’s. The first part begins in an ideal way, an almost frustrating slow start that builds up along the way, with dynamics that toy with your patience. You endure, you endure, and you reach the point that you’re ready to explode, like a volcano, like a star torn apart by the fury of its own power. There is no full distortion in the guitars here, just a sweet hint of it that veils their slow, sad melodies. I feel like I know that riff. It’s not that I’ve heard it before; what happens is this: whenever you hear this band, you can distinguish them from miles away, for the simple reason that Switchblade have their own, signature sound. Johan’s guitar has this particular tone and tuning that leads you to recognition. Even though if I feel familiar with this riff, it’s the first time that it’s unveiled in such a slow, torturous way, like something born with an overdose of energy, growing with almost alien pace.

And while I’m thinking the above, the second part crashes its way in. We’re talking about a ferocious riff. Tim’s drumming joins the ritual in the most practical and functional way possible. But Anders’ bass is the cornerstone here. If the guitars are the wall, the bass is the edifice. Even if the song started loud, with seminar-level dynamics, the music becomes slower and calmer, held together by Tim’s pounding, the almost buried vocals of Anders and the momentary guitar strokes of Johan. In the 12th minute the murk begins to appear. Fuck, what kind of sound is this? What kind of climax? We find here Switchblade at their heaviest. This is the moment that I feel that they are the doom-est band active. This is a truly jaw-dropping moment in the album. Even though unexpected, you take it in with great pleasure, because it’s absolutely cathartic. The screaming in the background joins the rest of the chaos and the mood becomes heavy and painful. Reaching the end of the second part, Switchblade prepare for what they will unleash in the third and final part. But to reach there they take us on a trip through their dense forest of feedback and guitar disharmony. And what a ride this is.

The final part is also the most anxious. The increased speed and the general mood look back to their 2003 sound, and hell, do I enjoy it. We’re not talking about retrogression here, and that’s what makes them admirable to my eyes. They use the foundation they themselves laid to reach new heights. That way the third part is built on Tim’s groovy rhythms. It goes calm again, persisting on a single melody and a floor tom and cymbal interplay, creating the background for slow, deceptive and painful explosions. The vocals are inextricable now and in all the right places. The slow riff that Anders is building will lead in another big, heavy moment. A really dark moment that is also the closing point of the album. It’s impressive that only 49 minutes have passed and now I can’t figure out what to listen to next. Maybe because it was too heavy to allow me those kinds of thoughts. Corrupted is the only band I can think of at the moment, and that’s probably a good thing.

It would be a shame not to talk about other aspects of this release, like its production and its aesthetic. It was recorded live in Gröndal Studios (in which The Hives and Breach have recorded, among others) and the guitar and vocal parts were added later in Version Studio. Back at Gröndal Studios they added the Hammond organ parts that Johan played. In so many words, the result was already incredible. Karl Daniel Liden worked his magic in the mixing process and he deserves much praise for upping the ante in the sound of Switchblade, focusing even more in the placing of the drums and resulting in an even warmer and heavier sound. I’m sure they’re as satisfied as I am. The mastering in Tonteknik Studios perfects the brew and the album is a prime example of warm, analogue sound, something that Switchblade’s music not only needs, but demands. All this under the band’s direction that also runs the fantastic Trust No One Recordings, a guarantee in good releases. DIY or what?

The awesome cover foreshadows already the mood of the album. It is very important to be able to place the listener exactly where you want, beginning with the aesthetics, and Switchblade have mastered that ability years now. The artwork is beautiful, minimal, stark, in b&w, like this journey, or, more like, ritual they offer. It’s difficult to pinpoint the images that come to mind while listening to this effort. Like in a great adventure, full of experience, everyone finds something to hold on to and remember. All that from a band that always reinvents itself. Far from their hardcore roots and their 2003 release, if Switchblade isn’t the definition of how a band can be transformed, then hell, I don’t know what transformation means.

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~ by Θ. on 2010/02/12.

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