01. Unholy Water
02. Essence Asunder
03. Tänk På Döden
04. Voice of the Below
05. Shadows of the Shapeless
2010 Seventh Rule Recordings
There's a genre tag of "progressive doom" that's being thrown around to describe Sweden's Kongh. The tag is a little forced, and sure to draw some scoffs from many, but in the case of the band's Shadows of the Shapeless (now seeing a re-release in the states by Seventh Rule), it's fitting enough to accept the absurdity and move on to the good stuff. The good stuff being, of course, the undeniable ability of this trio to conquer every subtlety involved in mastering the art of the 10+ minute epic, transcending genre titles in the process.
But if you had to make an attempt at categorization, Shadows of the Shapeless would fall near the work of a Yob or a Minsk that wasn't so heavy on the tribal atmosphere. Kongh's first success comes in an abundance of absolutely stellar doomy riffs, but then nails all of the dynamics, spooky ambience, and delicately embedded melody that you'd expect out of a well-crafted black metal album. Yet, as has already been established, neither doom metal nor black metal is an adequate comparison, so let's just leave those at face value.
"Unholy Water" begins with a touch of delay on the guitars and an effortlessly building swell that soon locks into a thick groove firmly anchored by churning bass, but painted nicely with some melodic guitar textures. "Essence Asunder" offers one of the record's most prominent riffs, a march-like pummeling in 6/8, before decaying into a somber section with reverb-heavy guitar lines. The track concludes with David Johansson's brooding singing -- a perfect complement to its triumphant chord progressions. The closing title track really stretches the group's songwriting legs, alternating between ominous melody and thick slabs of distortion. And as for those riffs, the one that appears with roughly four minutes to go is absolutely massive. When it hits you'll know.
In terms of musicianship, songwriting, and continuity, this flat out rules. The only bummer with this record is the realization that we -- we being the American we -- don't live in a world where bands like Kongh have the opportunity to get radio airplay and truly acquire the attention they deserve. Luckily, we have establishments like Seventh Rule Recordings to make the discovery process a little more bearable. If you're into the label's offerings from Indian, Raise the Red Lantern, and Sweet Cobra, then the riffs on Shadows of the Shapeless will be a perfect match. And oh yeah, Kongh's mastery of organically developed songwriting and subtle melody shouldn't hurt either.
Bottom Line: Kongh's Shadows of the Shapeless was originally released last year in Europe, but even in the age of dangerously easy communication it wouldn't be surprising if this missed some listeners stateside. If you're into the sprawling, dark sounds of Yob or Minsk, or the stellar riffing that tends to show up on Seventh Rule releases, then Kongh's "progressive doom" release is up your alley, regardless of how you feel about that slightly absurd genre title.