Looming like a giant insect, its silhouette sinister and black against the waning moon, stands Silvåkra Mill a place shunned by both the local villagers and the regions wildlife.. The murderous owner, of this dark foreboding structure situated in Sweden's rural south, has long since passed, but legend has it that his ghost still roams both the mill and its surrounding area bringing both terror and death to those still living in it's ominous shadow.
This is not the opening lines to a Dennis Wheatley novel or the script from a cult Italian horror movie but the concept behind the debut album from a Swedish four piece from Malmö going by the name Malsten. Malsten, Manne Högström (vocals); Fredrik Grehn (guitars); Andreas Svensson (bass/synths) and Joen Leffler(drums), describe their sound as simply "slow and heavy doom music" but one listen to "The Haunting of Sivåkra Mill" (Interstellar Smoke Records) will tell you that there is much, much more to this band.
We used the word "ominous" in our intro to this review and try as we might it is hard for us to find a more fitting word to describe the sound Malsten create with their music and the brooding menace that hangs like a cloud around that music. "The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill" is a dark album totally befitting of its concept, there are no "happy places" to be found here, no light relief to momentarily lift the mood and give you false hope, and nor should there be because this is a horror story set to music.
"The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill" opens its account with "Torsion" a lumbering beast of a song that begins on a wave of menacing synthesized noise then settles into a slow. low ponderous doomic groove that is driven by Reffler's unhurried pounding percussion and Svensson's deeply grizzled bass over which Grehn delivers a thickly distorted guitar refrain that pulsates and swells in waves of dark doomic majesty . This is scary atmospheric stuff but things get even scarier and even more atmospheric with the arrival of Högström's vocals, the singer perfectly pitching his delivery to give the song a mournful almost solemn gravitas, his clean strong, slightly gothic, tones the perfect match for the music that surrounds them. . "Immolation" follows and here we have to doff our caps and berets to Svensson's clever use of synthesizers to add texture and aura to proceedings, his electronically generated dark waves of noise add an extra dimension of menace to the songs already quite menacing sonic impact and ramps up its atmospherics tenfold, especially when combined with Grehn's thrumming guitar refrains. "Grinder" is up next and finds the synths, that were so prominent on the previous track, take more of a supporting role thus allowing Svensson's bass and Grehn's guitar to drive the groove, a groove that is anchored to the ground by some truly punishing and thunderous percussion from Leffler and given wings by a sombre but powerful vocal performance from Högström."Compunction" closes this little ode to the paranormal with a song that finds Malsten slightly raising the tempo from low slow and ponderous to something almost approaching mid-paced yet doing so without losing any of that depth and intensity that has informed much of their debut, the band even throwing a little monastic chanting into the mix to add an extra level of solemnity and grandeur.
"The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill" is like listening to the musical equivalent of horror story told around the flickering flames of a campfire, a chilling tale told in grave serious tones guaranteed to send shivers down the spine and raise the hairs on the back of the neck. The fact that Malsten can do this in a musical context is testament not only to their prowess as musicians but also their skill as songwriters.
Check 'em out .....
© 2020 Frazer Jones