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Astrally Plowed And Projected Trepanation Never Felt So Rad - 89%

CHAIRTHROWER, May 24th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Independent

"Mitä sinulle kuuluu?!"* is a decidedly apt Finnish query/greeting when it comes to Turku's unambiguously sinuous and suave - not to mention fuzzily refractive and hip - Craneium, a largely unheralded stoner rock quartet imbued with sufficient enough ardor and dark, hard-driving melody to breach the MA mods' threshold of all-out, overt "metal-ness".

Thank goodness for that, as I can't help but cathartically revel, like flying fish out of water, in its seven-tracked, forty odd minute sophomore gem titled The Narrow Line, released about six months ago, independently on sandcamp as well as CD and 12" vinyl under Cali's Ripple Music (diligent distributor of Black Lung, Doomstress and Holy Grove, for want of wistfully erudite examples). First of all, what's so refreshing and attractive about this release is how, unless you're a sonically eidetic minstrel, each and every listen sounds newly minted and original, while permeating the soul much like a warm and smoky Indian summer breeze's fondly received, embracing caress, not least of which is TNL's groovily stirring and melodious winner of an opener, the five-minute plus "Manifest", as it gripping-ly careens downhill and downwind to far-out/off melancholic elocution, the initial haunting verses of which are transcribed here in full ghostly, lilting glory:

"Without intention to harm
We speak no word un-spelled
You know I tried to warn
But we shoot straight to Hell

I know the truth of my ways
Walk outside the fair, old line
Who knows not what's to gain
Forever bound to be mine..."

Its crushing stoner metal guitar riff, combined with a jarring, triceratops's backbone of a battery (fleshed out by Jonas Ridberg on bass and Joel Kronqvist on drums), portentously segues, mid-way through, into a becalmed, cymbal-ride, crash heavy, noodling fest of clean lead plucking as well as a slam bashing ziggurat of snare thumps sure to raise an eyebrow or three (who says only Earthlings dig this?) prior to a downright finagling flurry of introspectively conveyed g-notes, the lot of it all making it the coolest stoner/doom metal/rock opener this side of EW's "Vinnum Sabbathi" or perhaps Demon Eye's "Hecate". If anything, Craneium duly reeled me in from the get-go, so any fanboy slammers out there in the mood for a challenge (or a little quid pro quo)...go ahead and try me! I'll be waiting right here as I indubitably bleach my skull (clean) to the tune of this trailblazing marvel whilst projecting the ole evil eye over yonder!

Another thing now, the songs are all incredibly varied, and to quote everyone's favourite Q-tube genre purveyor, Stoned Meadow Of Doom (in Nebraska), "Another stoner rock band is a dime a dozen nowadays with a new one seemingly coming out of nowhere every ten minutes, but it’s because of acts like Craneium that I simply can’t help but come back for more! 'The Narrow Line' is an absolutely splendid trip through the haze that Craneium creates with each riff and each ounce of psychedelia that’s simply dripping out of every track from this highly exceptional record. What Craneium present here is not so much an album but an adventure, escapism for the listener..." Amen!

Again, in his own words, Craneium lyrically draws its inspiration from "heartache, spiritual empowerment and weird tales", thus paralleling my own existence, in addition to unwavering inner struggles. Hence, a further reason I'm so smitten with the band whilst lauding its merits to all and sundry, whether or not they're into a) goofballs (the narcotic kind, not the flesh n' blood kind), b) astrology, palmistry and traveling carnivals, c) (crash courses in) neuroscience/brain surgery, e) all of the above, or, lastly, f) none of the above.

Juvenile babbling aside, it's somewhat difficult to provide apposite band comparisons - this is yet further cause for praise, in accordance with SMOD's above pertinent observation, yet, it's with confidence I boldly claim the foursome encompasses the very best elements from a nimiety of outfits, be they Texas' Duel or Solitude Aeturnus (special thanks to TheStormIRide for this marked perception), as well as maybe even Tool for some of the headier, more gruelling passages, like the grumbling buzzarama cutting a rude swath throughout "Beyond The Pale", for instance.

A fluid, spectral shimmer wholesomely permeates high reaping, loosely smashing drum-heavy tracks such as "I'm Your Demon" whereas a super groovy, funk-laden "The Soothsayer" ethereally swats its linear, no-nonsense way to the tune of ax/vocal team Martin Ahlö/Andreas Kaján's treble-some guitar overtures, and thus until swarthy string-bends and a revolving return to form pave the way for 6.5 minutes lead-laden jams "Redemption" (a softer, albeit as-transcendental number compared to its brethren), "The Goat (Is In Command)", and funereal, kraut-rock'ish closer "Man's Ruin" - perhaps a tip of the hood to defunct 'Cisco label and mainstay responsible for the quirky likes of Iron Monkey and Sons Of Otis?). Worth noting at this last's outset is its quickly budding, if not all-out stomping, psychedelic sheen, chock full of bouncy, watery reverb before a final wizened kick at the mountain top constitutes its pentatonic-ally loufoque (i.e. French for crazed or non compos mentis) denouement.

A quick side listen of Craneium's ten-minute longer, nine-track full-length debut from 2014, Explore The Void (ensconced betwixt a "hand"-ful of shorter tidbits - a 2012 EP and triad of splits), showcases a grubbier, chuggier impression than The Narrow Line's considerably smoother and charismatic approach, and at this point, even though it feels like I failed to do the latter full justice, hampered as I was by a post-dawn blackout, not to mention myriad of pesky institutional "programming", know "Manifest" alone, with its languishing cadence and brilliant lyrics/vox, is worth giving a serious, dedicated gander.

*Groan-worthy googling will yield the generic "How are ya?!", but really, it's more of a local, colloquial endearment for "Whoa! What're you into?!"...I couldn't help but clear that up for you guys, lest I come off like an overly-cryptic rube, as I'm wont to do!