Tuesday 5 November 2013

Doublestone - Wingmakers (album review)

Cover artwork by Johan August Christiansen.
You know, it's not just any band that can walk in off the street and deliver a solid 10 song debut album.  Doublestone laid the groundwork with two diamond solid E.P.'s in preparation for their big moment, establishing the band as "one to watch" (there is actually a third E.P., the band's first which I haven't heard, but I'm sure it's equally scorching).  Well, the moment we were watching for is now here.  At midnight, Copenhagen time, The Danish trio Doublestone released their first full-length album 'Wingmakers' on Levitation Records and made it available as a pay-what-you-want digital download on bandcamp.  The album was recorded this summer live and on tape in a basement in Copenhagen by none other than Tony Reed (Mos Generator, Stone Axe, Heavy Pink).  With the heavy emphasis this year on Scandanavian / Teutonic Retro Rock (which seems to be increasing as of late), how does Doublestone stack up against the likes of Horisont, Kadavar, Noctum, Brutus, et al?  Well, if it's true that timing is everything, then Doublestone sure picked a good time to come out swinging.

And come out swinging they do.  "Save Our Souls" spills out of the speakers nearly like a sequel to my former favorite Doublestone song, "Hand of Lucifer", which opened their Self-Titled E.P. from earlier this year.  This band knows how to start things off on the most energetic note possible.  The some nice guitar runs that travel from high to higher close out a memorable track that has riffs, dynamics and scope all within three and a half minutes.  This is what you can come to expect on 'Wingmakers', as the band puts on a clinic.  Straight off you know that this is going to be a dense album full of ten tight tracks.  But one of the most interesting songs of all here is "The Bringer of Light", again touching on that running theme of Lucifer.  This is perhaps the darkest song on the album, as the band engages in a very early Black Sabbath vibe, it's a shame there aren't more like this one really, especially when it hits you so early into the album (track 2), it leaves you hungry for more of this darker side.  And perhaps the darkness finally does come back around as the album closes out, but we'll get to that in a minute.  I've chosen "The Bringer of Light" as my personal single from the album, if you know what I mean.  Some of the vocal melodies and tones here bring to mind Moon Curse, one of my favorite up and coming bands and though Doublestone may be a bit more well-established than the Milwaukee based trio at this point, it's a strong reference point and they wear the style incredibly well.

But the band moves from strength to strength here and can blaze from dark to bright and back again with ease.  "In The Forest" takes a huge chunky riff and drops it right down the middle of the forest during the breakdown, in the shade, between any penetrating shafts of light.  This is the approach of Doublestone.  Take a gigantic, heavy riff and cover it in ever-thickening layers of dirt and darkness.  The job is done admirably once again on the title track as a wailing guitar solo boils overtop of Kristian Blond's chugging bassline.  "Fire Down Below" is another standout track, just a tightly packed two and two thirds minutes of groove.  It's one of the more understated facets of Doublestone's game, probably because guitarist / vocalist Bo Blond is always exploring all corners of a song, as was mentioned earlier, scaling from low to high to higher while Kristian holds the fort at all times.

The album closes on a high.  "Witch Is Burning" and "III III III (Götterdämmerung)" are a titanic one two combo to close things out on.  The former track has a Kyuss feel to the main guitar melody and shines a burning spotlight on the band's groovy side once again as Bo implores, "You better make sure it's the right witch you're burning".  "III III III" closes things out on a suitably epic high.  I won't say that the song is Wagnerian in scope, but it's a little like a mini rock opera within the album.  This is the point where the band fully embraces that darkness once again, telling a dark tale atop a sinister groove during the verse bookended by heavy riffs and menacing solos punctuated by pausey stops and starts.  There's a lot going on in this song and is one of my absolute favorites from an album packed with great moments.

Retro Rock is a competitive field right now and though all these many bands have their own unique take on '70's riffs, analogue recording and old school sounds, there is still the temptation for comparison.  One thought kept creeping into my head while listening to 'Wingmakers' for the first time.  This little weasly voice kept whispering, "poor man's Kadavar" into my ear.  It sounded like a put down even in my own head and it started to bum me out like being harrassed by a drunk guy at the bus stop.  But you know what?  I AM a poor man and the fact that Doublestone blasts out dark '70's grooves without the hipper-than-thou hype sits well with me and maybe the vocals aren't as beautifully rendered in the recording as some other teutonic throwback bands does nothing to lessen my enjoyment of this album one iota.  Matter of fact, 'Wingmakers' puts Kadavar's latest album to shame here, with so much more feel and nuance that it becomes hard to understand the disparity between the two bands in terms of profile.  'Wingmakers' is jam packed with heavy riffs which decay before your eyes in a sinister forest of compositional exploration.  If nothing else, this album establishes Doublestone as one of the best bands in their field, the E.P.'s were no fluke and all comparisons aside, stands as one of the best documents of an increasingly popular movement.

Highlights include: "The Bringer of Light" and "III III III (Götterdämmerung)"

Rating: 4.5/5

Total Run Time: 41:06

From: Copenhagen, Denmark

Genre: Retro Rock, Hard Rock, Psychedelic

Reminds me of: Brutus, Kadavar, Mountain Witch, Vidunder

Release Date: November 6, 2013

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