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6 out of 10
The problem facing metal bands from Scandinavia is they're always up against the history of countless pioneers and predecessors from Norway and Sweden. Indeed, in the case of Kongh, a promising trio from Vetlanda in southern Sweden, they've already set quite a precedent with their 2006 demo and 2007's debut album 'Counting Heartbeats' - a rich, menacing hour of doom/sludge hybrids. Then there's the excellent records released already this year by the extreme/metal establishment - Sunn O))), Napalm Death and Mastodon. Kongh are putting out 'Shadows Of The Shapeless' during a fertile time for music and they'll need something special to stand out.
Unfortunately, 'Shadows' isn't quite it. 'Unholy Water' and 'Essence Asunder' use familiar techniques in familiar ways: quiet/loud build-ups, interrupted by periods of inconsequential drone. Both songs are over 10 minutes long but peter out not long after the five minute mark, as if Kongh are just playing long songs to pick up some kind of 'experimental metal' tag. There just aren't enough ideas in 'Unholy Water' or 'Essence Asunder' to justify the time allocated to them here. Then again, the four minute drudge of 'Tank Pa Doden' feels like little more than an interlude.
The production, by friend of the band Peter Lundin, is also lacklustre, drummer Tomas Salonen's efforts being lost in a murky mix, while guitarist/vocalist David Johansson's growls are often made completely indecipherable. Perhaps they're only meant to add to the texture of the record rather than a message.
Kongh (not to be confused with either the Mancunian trio featuring members of Oceansize, Kong; or Kong the Dutch industrial band - the reason behind the addition of the 'h') come good though on the closing pair, 'Voice Of The Below' and the title track. Here they up the BPM, the production is livelier and they take on a crusty, black metal akin to Darkthrone. Admittedly, on 'Shadows Of The Shapeless' they can't resist going back to slow, droney post-metal but after the frazzled BM before it respite is needed. With more songs like these, and with more quality control, Kongh can match the high standards they - as well as the likes of Mastodon - have set down.
1. Unholy Water
2. Essence Asunder
3. Tank Pa Doden
4. Voice Of The Below
5. Shadows Of The Shapeless