I don't review a heck of a lot of sludge metal, but here's a second album in two days where that genre has come up. While I'd absolutely call Discarded Self blackened sludge metal, I see Domkraft as heavy psychedelic rock. Everything here is rooted in psychedelic rock. It just happens to be really heavy. And I do mean heavy. Where most bands plumbing the late sixties and early seventies for inspiration head right for the standards, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, and certainly there's a lot of Sabbath here in the Domkraft sound, I'd suggest that they've been listening more to Vanilla Fudge and Blue Cheer and their ilk.
This felt very west coast American to me. There's acid here and I don't think that was Sabbath's drug of choice in Birmingham and the music isn't coming from the same attitude. It's certainly as trippy as it is heavy, but that trippiness feels like experimentation rather than escape. It's mind expansion not avoidance of reality. In fact, the British influence I'm hearing most isn't actually Sabbath at all, weird given how emphatically heavy this is, but Hawkwind. This isn't space rock at all and I don't believe that there's even a keyboardist in Domkraft, but it does explore some of the same territory and I can easily see the fanbases overlapping.
The vocals certainly fit Hawkwind because they're clean but they're not polished, melodic and musical but raw and heartfelt. They're provided by Martin Wegeland, who also handles the very audible bass, because Domkraft are a trio, as some unwritten rule seems to suggest heavy psychedelic bands ought to be. Did Cream create that rule? It certainly seems to be followed a lot, perhaps because the sound of such bands is often unadorned by orchestration or electronica but frequently instrumental. This is not an instrumental band, but there are long stretches where we never hear a voice.
The biggest problem the album has, I think, is that the opening title track is absolutely fantastic. It's a nine minute piece too, so we're fully acclimatised to Domkraft when it ends, like a sort of encore that didn't make it onto the released version of Space Ritual. I adore this song, but the rest of the album is not another half an hour of the same stuff and Perpetuator, the almost nine minute song that follows it is emphatically not doing the same thing.
Perpetuator is worthy of mention because it's definitely playing with sludge. To me, it feels a little out of place, because this music wants to soar, to be free, and the more overt sludge elements anchor it to the ground. Perpetuator feels held back, even with what may well be an escape into the cosmos at the end. Seeds feels free by comparison, its organic heaviness not stopping its movement but shaping it in fascinating ways Sure, the atmosphere is thick and syrupy but we're moving through that in leisurely and inexorable motion, sometimes langurous. Jumping back to Seeds after Perpetuator feels like the chains have broken and the waters with them too, because we're being born.
Fortunately, Into Orbit returns to the style of Seeds and we mostly stay there for the rest of the album. I like Wegeland's work, in both his roles, and I'm impressed by just how much Anders Dahlgren is a powerhouse behind the drumkit. They conjure up a heck of a background for Martin Widholm's guitar to paint over and it never ceases to amaze me just how dense a trio can sound. Widholm, though, feels like he's three different people. There are points where he backs off a little, content to provide a riff to underpin the vocals, and the band still sound a lot fuller than some six or seven piece bands I've heard. But then he opens up and rides the waves of feedback like an accomplished surfer and suddenly it feels like there are ten musicians on stage each serving to build sonic layers, but those ten musicians are usually Martin Widholm.
Domkraft hail from Stockholm, Sweden and this is their third studio album, after The End of Electricity in 2016 and Flood two years later. I haven't heard those, but I'm eager to explore them. The line-up has remained consistent throughout, though I don't know when they were founded. Maybe they're bigger on the sludge in earlier releases. If they're moving away from that into purer psychedelic rock realms, then Perpetuator would likely be the oldest song here and the Indian-infused Krank Blekhet the most recent, even though it's really an intro for the closing track, Audiodome, which is another nine minute journey and an even more diverse one.
It has perhaps the most overt Sabbath riff, but it's still all enfolding like the best of Hawkwind and as immersive as some of those heavy psychedelic acid trips that so many bands took out of San Francisco as the sixties became the seventies and heavy metal was being born. This does seem primal like that. Maybe that isn't sludge at all, but primordial ooze and, once the band have crept out of it, the sky is the only limit. I like this a lot.