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The Northern Lights is to be a series of split albums involving Ocean Chief. This first installment saw them playing alongside fellow Swedes Runemagick, and the next, in 2010, will see them joining the Runemagick side project Domedag. Ocean Chief took the chance to release a track left off Tor, and Runemagick previewed 'Chthonic Temple Smoke' from the upcoming Dawn of the End as well as including a rare track.
Although recorded alongside the Tor album, Ocean Chief's track has much in common with the sound they would use for their 2009 album Den Förste. 'Gathering Souls' opens with their customary riffs, fuzzier than the cast of Sesame Street and slower than erosion, but with some more harmonic edges that add a rousing, upward tilt to the main riff. This pattern is maintained for almost the first ten minutes, a mesh of repeated, pulsing sonance that envelops your brain in thick layers and ensures your loyalty to the Ocean Chief for the rest of the voyage.
At that point, Jocke Petterson's bass guitar takes the tiller with an incrementally progressing pattern of deep, thudding plucks that are eventually overlaid by glassy guitar licks. Floating becalmed in the doldrums, all is still around you, until at the track's halfway mark the heaviness crashed back in. Tobias Larsson abandons his dilatory incantations of those tranquil waters in the first ten minutes for a strident, harsh roar that booms over the now discordant, wailing guitar motifs. The final four minutes of the track begin with a lethargic guitar solo that gives way to an emotive tremolo climax, the feedback fuzz becoming only a slight layer of static and Tobias pounding his way through the song's most dynamic drum section.
The wild, feral atmosphere created with such augustness by the band sits comfortably with their epic, Viking themes. It continues to interest me that, despite the recent slew of Viking metal bands dominating festivals everywhere, the stoned doom of Ocean Chief evokes both the savagery and the hard-chinned nobility of Norse legend so much more accurately.
'Bound in Magick Haze' and 'Chthonic Temple Smoke'
Runemagick, squatting in all their deathly morbidity next to Ocean Chief, present a very different approach to doom metal. After the shaky guitar chords of the first three minutes, a typically heavy and reverberating series of Runemagick riffs erupt, with the first track characterized by a militaristic marching sound with scattered drum tattoos. Nicklas' voice has changed a little since the band's progression into doom, and here he adopts a ravaged, back of the throat yell; used to best effect at the seven minute mark as the music drops out and he emits a fearsome interpretation of the track's title. 'Bound in Magick Haze' ends with eerie guitar wails in place of a solo, leading into Runemagick's second contribution the album.
'Chthonic Temple Smoke' makes use of curling, deep bass plucks by Emma Rudolfsson and leading into a classic death/ doom riff that recalls the genre's earliest days - just without all the violins, and female singing, and keyboards and all those other girly bits. Just dark, horrible, slow death metal that threatens to eat the listener whole if it doesn't get utter compliance. A spiralling whirlpool of tremolo riffs leads into Nicklas' first "Wruh!!" and the chugging of the track's middle section kicks in. Menacing and ugly, the track is Runemagick at their most deliciously vile.
Those who have had a good time with any of Ocean Chief's other releases can guarantee finding twenty-five minutes of their favourite drugged-up doom here, while the same can essentially be said for Runemagick. Anyone who has liked Runemagick's recordings since Darkness Death Doom will find the two tracks incuded here much to their tastes. Although Runemagick don't gel with Ocean Chief in the same way Kongh do, The Northern Lights features two superior doom bands at the absolute top of their game. Just don’t get high listening to the first track because the last two will send you on the nastiest fucking trip.