There is so much music out there that there comes a point where one takes a step back to reassess things. At these infrequent though necessary moments, even the most dedicated Metal fan may feel overwhelmed. Plenty of albums may impress, but how many burn themselves into the soul? The albums we tend to revisit over the years are those that succeed at conjuring a vibe that could be related to. After all, music is a tool valuable for its catalyzing effect of catharsis. Enter Caskets Open, a band that hails from Finland and is independently releasing their fourth full-length on March 20. Theirs is a sound that is sure to surprise many with its purist sensibilities.
This is a band that effectively taps into the past greatness of many prolific musicians yet assembles these influences in a creatively potent manner. Initially, one gets the sense of a Samhain-style Goth-Punk-Hardcore sound that meets the gloom and Doom of a fuzzier brand of Type O Negative. The mid-era Glenn Danzig and Type O Negative-era Peter Steele are influences that run concurrently throughout the album. In short, this band hits on all the right occult-themed motifs with a classic sound rich with historic depth. It is an ambitious venture into the most pitch-black shadow, a heady brew that resonates more and more as the album progresses.
“Four Shrines” is the first track and begins with a sinister, low, distorted bass that locks in tightly with the drums as it quakes thunderous chords. Anyone versed in the Drab Four will immediately recognize the similarity to classic Type O Negative for it is unmistakable. There is no rush to bring in the guitar as it does not appear before the 1:24 mark. When the rest of the band arrives, the atmosphere created is reminiscent of an invocation, a spiritual plea aimed at the void. The latter half of the song absolutely explodes with a volatile Punk fury. The Doom beginning creates the frenzied sense of urgency fulfilled by the Punk part which in turn, amps up the isolated malaise of grief that gives birth to the track. “Riding on a Rotten Horse” follows and conjures a more familiar Doom trail for the band. The vocals rub against some typical Glenn Danzig-type tropes. If a singer is going to be influenced, why not let it be one of the most iconic voices of heavy music? The vocals are not, however, purposefully trying to rip off the legend a point which must be made. It is a vocal style that is certainly close to Evil Elvis but it is not derivative or disrespectful.
There is also a current of nihilistic, Acid Bath-fueled debauched poetry that runs parallel to latent respect and awe for Jim Morrison’s early mystifying croon that burned its mark on hearts across the world. It is underground-born, dystopian Doom seasoned with bits of psychedelic exploration, Hardcore Punk rage, and anchored by a robust penchant for constructing riffs that appropriately color the songs with a universal appeal. These core influences take shape in many ways as the band display a remarkably mature regimen of songwriting that highlights dynamic tempo changes, textural guitar work, and prescient foresight in effective peaks and valleys as the music plods along. It is nonsensical that Caskets Open are not on a label for this is a sound that bridges the past and the future in a lovely, decadent manner, one that, yes, conjures a mood that speaks to the listener on a deep level. Thus, the songs are not mere collections of riffs but animated creations that come alive when summoned by the performers.
The fourth track, “Tunnel Guard,” is an excellent example of how Caskets Open create such memorable tracks. With a solid mid-pace, the guitar and bass seem to weave in and out of each other. A heavy mid-80s Goth vibe pervades, a scene founded upon wandering, expressive bass lines as such – think Joy Division. The listener is constantly surprised throughout this album, a point solidified by the anthemic turn the song goes on to take, a rousing surprise. “Tadens Tolthe,” the sixth track, is the revelatory song that seems to be the glue between the many facets of Caskets Open’s sound. In a respectable, dedicated fashion, the band strikes out into Black Sabbath territory. With the expressive groundwork laid by the bass as it crawls between chords, the guitar can really ring out. Caskets Open are a trio with a sound robust in power in the recording though still true to a live sound. Each instrument is given equal room in which to work and working in tandem as such, the sound is propelled into mighty levels. The latter half of the song gives an in-depth view of the band on jam mode as the rhythm section remains locked in synchronicity while the guitar artfully expands the melodic idea with effects, feedback, and choice minor arpeggios.
Admittedly, as any of my friends will undoubtedly attest, I am a huge lifelong fan of Black Sabbath, the many sides of Glenn Danzig, and Type O Negative is my personal favorite band of all time. When I hear a band such as Casket Open come along, I’m proud to hear a bass sound that is detuned, distorted, and singing with electricity in a sound clearly influenced by Peter Steele for it comes across as honest homage to the man. The same can be said of the moments where the vocals venture into Glenn Danzig territory. This isn’t a campaign to emulate him but rather that witchy, yet still a violently angry vibe of the Samhain era seems to shine through. At this stage of the band’s career, their music is earnest and veracious, militantly contagious, and truly all their own. Sure, there are moments that remind one of the various influences, but they are reminiscent of true greatness that have been assimilated into a proprietary solution, its formulated recipe known only to the band members. This is a chance to be introduced to a band that really nails a pro-Halloween, breezy occult stance on Doom Metal, one that is propagating its message way outside the box. Never have I had the privilege of making references to all my absolute favorite bands in the same review. Caskets Open are a band to keep tabs on for theirs is a fortuitous future ahead indeed.