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I have always placed Switchblade into the same scene as bands such as Neurosis, Isis, Growing, Pelican, The Ocean, Tephra, & Cult of Luna. What could be described as Post-Hardcore, though arty bands that tend to have no label. It was a bit of a surprise then that “Switchblade III” was to feature a Black Metal musician. Now, this was good news for me, but in many cases Switchblade are the sort of band who just don’t fit in anywhere. Too Hardcore for the Black Metallers to accept, & too Black Metal for the Post-Hardcore enthusiasts. It is an all too familiar story; bands try to experiment & get labelled as being sell outs, as having lost the plot or just being plain crap. I always remember the Hardcore band Teen Cthulu (a band favoured by John Peel), who combined Black Metal & Hardcore. They had all the sensibilities of Hardcore, but sound like a crusty version of Black Metal & tend to get overlooked because they blur the edges. Of course, it is understandable that puritanical Black Metallers will not like the scene to be diluted with other genres & techniques (& I can relate to this). However, sometimes the results are pretty damn good. It is worth bearing in mind that E of Watain & Mattias Friberg of Logh, have contributed their vocals to “Switchblade III”, before judging it too harshly. Therefore Switchblade must have seemed a worthwhile project for these contrasting musicians (Logh is a Swedish Indie/Shoegazer). Right? Definitely right, for “Switchblade III”, is even better than expected, although, to be honest, it doesn’t sound like Black Metal or Post-Hardcore.
I am surprised all those Southern Lord fans out there aren’t rushing out in droves to grab a copy of “Switchblade III”. The first half of the album is incredibly like the later material by Sunn 0))) such as “White 2” or “Black One”. In a way, this isn’t too surprising as both Sunn 0))) & Switchblade tend to produce predominantly instrumental music & now both bands have experimented with Blackened vocals. However, whereas “Black One” is incredibly eerie & brooding, “Switchblade III” is doomy with stronger guitars & the sort of slightly depressive chord arrangements that are reminiscent of late Neurosis. Switchblade demonstrate the use of very simple, slow guitar parts that are reverberated & accompanied by a very deep bass. The overall effect brings to mind another Southern Lord band; Khanate. “Switchblade III” is almost how one would imagine Khanate to sound if they decided to pursue a more ambient direction. The vocals are actually quite sludgy in styling, but the music is not as extreme. This is not to say it is not extreme, but it has a subtle power which Black Metal blasting or filthy Sludge riffs do not have! Bands such as Sunn 0))) have a sort of Psychological heaviness & tend to tap into the subconscious. This permeating quality is very much present in Switchblade at this point in their career.
Unfortunately there is not much to suggest what inspiration drives Switchblade. But, then they are a mysterious band, most release titles confusingly entitled “Switchblade” & most tracks untitled (save for the duration the tracks run for). Like Khanate, there is a disease-ridden quality to the music & as it totally gets under your skin, this is a redeeming feature. The only information given is the following text: “BY WHOSE TERRIBLE WRATH THE ELEMENTS ARE OVERTHROWN; THE AIR IS SHAKEN; THE SEA IS TURNED BLACK;FIRE IS QUENCHED; THE EARTH SHUDDERS. AND ALL THE HOST OF THINGS IN HEAVEN; OF THINGS ON EARTH; OF THINGS IN HELL. DO TEMBLE AND FALL SILENT”. This tends to bring to mind tragedy in the aftermath of a violent disaster perhaps. The music is desolate to say the least. It has an uneasy sense of calm which suggests an unseen horror or presence. This is another area where the band demonstrate a different kind of extremity or heaviness.
The two main tracks of the album are broken by an Ambient interval, as if to allow the listener to prepare for the second instalment. Great for building tension & curiosity. The album is concluded in a similarly effective manner. However, there are some clean vocals on the track which add a different atmosphere, perhaps closer to Earth or Boris in their Post-Rock moments (think the film soundtrack “Mabuta No Ura”). The clean vocals add a different experience to the album, bringing to mind concepts of chaos & silence. Though still simplistic, the final track is more direct & contrasts with the first track. It also builds in intensity, bringing with it gradually rougher vocals & sinister guitar melodies. Very subtle piano effects may also be heard at times & a nervous distortion, which is never over used. “16:45” becomes very much doomier & heavier bringing to mind the instrumental moments of Electric Wizard or the darker Rosetta tracks. The track builds to a powerful crescendo in a format similar to those used by many Post-Rock artists (a genre which is almost like a Classical based form of mainly instrumental guitar pieces) though there are some rough vocals added which work incredibly well.
This is an excellent album, especially considering that this is a new technique for Switchblade, they some mean promise. This monolithic album is bleak, oppressive, & destructive. It should appeal to fans of Sunn 0))), Khanate, Earth, Boris, Swans, Asva, Rosetta, Marzuraan, 5ive, Electric Wizard, Overmars, etc. In some cases, unlikely genres can be combined as Switchblade prove!