Genres can be a pain: and doom metal is a classic example of why. Classifying a band as doom metal tells you very little, because its necessary features boil down to slow pace and bleak themes, and those can encompass bands with wildly different sounds; ranging from ambient Gothic mourners like Trees of Eternity to slow, destructive black/death metal acts like Ereb Altor.
The Crawling execute a style that is far to the latter end of the spectrum, and do it damn well. ‘Anatomy of Loss’ is a dense, punishing album in which the band demonstrate their brutal sound at its best and justify their rising position on the NI scene.
The band’s sound is defined by slow, miserable, repetitive riffs and vocals which – while not remotely ‘clean’ are always loud and clear. They pace themselves, opening songs with accessible introductions and then gracefully dropping into the abyss. My language is proving a bit more florid than it should be; The Crawling do not have the romantic/gothic aesthetic one associates with Peaceville doom; I think their creative personality could be best summed up in the wince-inducing title of their single ‘Choking on Concrete’. It’s certainly a melodic sound, but a slow, malicious, grinding one. From the simple up-down-up-down opening riff of ‘An Immaculate Deception’, this style is set in stone.
The well-structured opening leads on to the particularly slow and doom-laden ‘A Poison Orange’, which eases up on the drums for verses but then explodes on the choruses. It’s a well-paced track, introducing all its elements one-by-one in a manner that gives each part a chance to justify itself before they all come together. The gradual pacing is helped by longer runtimes; most of the songs on the album break the six-minute mark, even if none of them hit double digits. ‘Acid on My Skin’ steps up the bleak factor yet again; the vocals falling almost to a whisper without losing their harshness. That’s another Crawling staple; despite no clean vocals, I can understand every syllable. ‘All Our Failings’ counteracts the slower initial songs with a faster, angrier, more death metal direction. It quickly became my favourite track on the album, especially due to the grinding intro riff, which thankfully recurs. ‘All Our Failings’ has charged onto a number of my playlists of late and is one of those tracks I grab out of the blue when I want some impromptu heaviness, so I cannot wait to hear this one live.
Not to disrespect, but I got a chuckle from the branded title of ‘The Right to Crawl’, a delightfully hateful track carried over from the excellent ‘In Light of Dark Days’ EP along with the closer, ‘Catatonic’ (although both sound like they may have had a do-over in the studio to sharpen their points). ‘Violence Vanity and Neglect’ may be the most melodic track on the album, in relative terms; it’s the closest to my old, ill-educated picture of doom metal. Since I’m still more of a gothic doom fan than a death-doom one it would be my (very biased) favourite if ‘All Our Failings’ hadn’t been such a ripper. Concluding the set, ‘Catatonic’, the longest song on the album, sounds like it’s going to continue the same course, until a really crushing chorus breaks through. It’s a strong finish, and establishes this as an album with strong pacing, rather than merely a collection of quality tracks. There’s not a very wide variety among the tracks, and they possess a certain minimalism, but The Crawling do what they do with slick precision and a clearly recognisable sound, so I’m not inclined to call that a fault.
It’s an interesting sound; very clear without being softened; gruesome without Black metal chaos. The production has clearly taken plenty of careful thought, but what it creates is simple and well-honed rather than complex. The specific balance of music and vocals is also intriguing; as I said, neither ever fail to strike the listener as properly heavy and brutal, but everything is clear and accessible. The band describe themselves as three old metalheads, and their deliberate execution shows the value of experience. What The Crawling do is quite simple, but nobody does it quite like them.
Favourite track: All Our Failings
Polite Recommendation: Try going even slower, pump that existential despair.
For fans of: God Seed, Graveyard Dirt, Mourning Beloveth, Draconian, Paradise Lost