Originally formed back in the late '90s, through the years Switchblade have managed to attain a cult status. Flying a bit under the radar, this hybrid drone/sludge band remained very prolific in the fist half of their career, but their output has since become sparser. In 2012 they released another of their self-titled albums, 2012, which is arguably their best work to date. It took them four years to make a return, but thankfully Tim Bertilsson (drums) and Johan Folkesson (guitars) make a return today with the newest entry to the Switchblade discography.
There was a slight change in 2012, seeing the band incorporating a few '70s rock elements to their sound. As subtle as that was, it was still detectable, but the band never fully embraced that side of their sound. However, in 2016, that aspect comes back reinvigorated. In a sense, the new album is a direct continuation of 2012, with even some of the guests returning, in David Johansson of Kongh and Per Wiberg of Spiritual Beggars (previously of Opeth.) As a further extension, it feels like the band has reduced its minimalistic tendencies, mainly coming in the form of drone/doom riffs and solitary atmospheres, and are now upping the tempo, adding more melodic elements and aiming towards a more solid and straightforward form for their music.
But, do not despair. That does not mean that Switchblade have thrown away the weight that has defined them since their beginnings. The thundering presence of the guitars and the explosive quality of the drums come down as a sledgehammer, and Switchblade prove throughout the record how they can adapt the track's progression, switching from the upbeat moments to the complete devastation of their drone/sludge identity. And this is an album that is deeply aggressive. If there is one thing that the faster tempo has increased is the urgency with which these guys play, crafting a more explosive sound, without leaving behind any of the doom weight, the heavy riffs, or the saturated, beyond any recognition, guitars.
More apparent of a transformation though is the extent to which the '70s rock sound is present in Switchblade's 2016. The groove of the era is infectiously radiating from the tracks of the album, with moments as “Third Burden” and “The Cresset” making a monstrous appearance. And, on the other hand, there is a fair amount of the psychedelic tone of the '70s, granting a more trippy and space-like theme, that becomes apparent even in the heavier parts of the album, granting a dark psychedelic identity to the band. They even go as far as to include a fucking insane cover of Atomic Rooster's “Death Walks Behind You.”
The changes work quite nicely with the established sound of Switchblade, and it is great to see that the band is progressing sonically, something apparent from their previous albums. It will be interesting to see how they will continue incorporating these influences to their sound, and what else they will come up with. Hopefully we will not have to wait four more years to find out.
7.2 / 10
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