Sons of Crom – The Black Tower (Review)

Sons of CromSons of Crom are a Swedish blackened heavy metal band and this is their second album.

Sons of Crom’s debut album Riddle of Steel was extremely impressive and enjoyable, making its way into my end of year best of list for 2014. Rich and diverse, it really was a stunner that has easily stood the test of time thus far. Continue reading

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Interview with Sons of Crom

Sons of Crom Logo

Sons of Crom have recently birthed their stunning début album Riddle of Steel. Once my jaw had picked itself back up off the floor I simply had to know more about this band that seemingly appeared from nowhere and produced such an unexpectedly epic album. Let’s delve right in…

For those who are unfamiliar with your band – introduce yourself!

Janne: We are Sons of Crom, and we play epic heavy metal. The band is composed of me, Janne Posti (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards), and my cousin Iiro Sarkki (vocals, drums). We are both Finns, though I live in Sweden. Our vision is to create music that evokes the primordial feelings of pride, honour and strength through epic storytelling and a grandiose aura. Our music has many layers to it; we want our songs to be catchy yet atmospheric, and we use a wide dynamic spectrum. The basis of our sound lies in some kind of cineastic metal, but genre boundaries are something we cross several times in most of our songs, so we’re not bothered with limiting our expression to one dimension.

Give us a bit of history to Sons of Crom

Iiro: Well there are two answers to this. The history of us as cousins and the history of us as Sons of Crom. Of course they are somewhat intertwined but for obvious reasons the latter is a lot shorter – or is it? Though we have been making music under the Sons of Crom name for less than a year, the personal history between us goes back forever and in a way I think Sons of Crom have always been there, maturing, growing – only now we have revealed our intentions to the world.

Janne: In January, we were in the studio recording, and decided to improvise a song – a long, slow and epic song. We ended up composing “Victory” on the spot, and knew that something of significant value had just emerged. From there on the music just kept coming and coming…it seemed like nothing could stop the flow. We made song after song during the coming weeks/months and soon the album was finished. Debemur Morti Productions was interested in releasing it so it was a no-brainer to engage in co-operation with them. Now, “Riddle of Steel” is here, and Crom is smiling. Haha.

What are your influences?

Janne: Movies, literature and music on one hand, and philosophy, history, cultural heritage and spirituality on the other. The magniloquence of movies such as Conan the Barbarian, or the proud verses of the Poetic Edda, are big inspirations for us. The way of scripting a story and augmenting the saga to something wondrous and larger than life is something we try to incorporate in our own music, to further elevate the lyrical themes and messages. Musically, we are huge suckers for movie soundtracks and all kinds of metal, though both of us have very wide stylistic tastes in music. I can hear bits and pieces of just about everything in our music, from classical music (Bach, Rachmaninoff) to jazz (Brad Mehldau, Esbjörn Svensson) or 70’s hard rock (Uriah Heep, Deep Purple) to black metal (Marduk, Limbonic Art) and beyond. Of course, Bathory is an obvious band to namedrop, and certainly the mighty Quorthon has left a huge influence on us.

What are you listening to at the moment that you would like to recommend?

Iiro: As I write this I am actually listening to the new album by Freak Kitchen, which is not their best opus but I guess I would recommend giving it a spin at least. There are of course albums that I am always listening to that I could recommend. For example Cultes des Ghoules’ “Henbane” is a masterpiece of raw crushing power with occult imagery. Also a new finding for me was an artist called Megadrive. Megadrive makes this cyberpunk/80’s movie soundtrack -style instrumental music with retro sounds bordering on cheesy – but awesome nonetheless. They have catchy songs and nice atmosphere, if you like 80’s action flicks and their awesome music, you should have no trouble liking Megadrive.

Janne: I’ve been spinning a lot of 90’s Marduk lately, “Heaven Shall Burn…” and “Those of the Unlight” being my favourites. Harsh and brutal yet melodic and catchy, I simply can’t get enough of these black treats. Another recent re-discovery is old Gehenna, particularly “First Spell” and “Seen Through the Veils of Darkness”. It’s been years since I played these superb records, and I’m baffled at how little notice they get when people talk about Norwegian black metal. The keyboard-heavy atmosphere, passionate vocals and catchy riffs and melodies really give Gehenna a sound of their own, and they deserve more attention!

Sons of Crom BandWhat did you set out to achieve with your new album?

Janne: We have no material or monetary objectives, the only thing we want is to reach as many as possible with our thoughts and message. Our goal is to tell a compelling story with philosophical overtones and provide an enticing soundtrack to match its different chapters. We want to reach out to the listener through our music and take him/her through an action-filled journey of war, blood and tragedy, and hopefully inspire him or her to seek answers to the questions older than time itself: “Who am I? What is my destiny? What is the meaning of life? How will I prevail in battle against overwhelming adversity? Where can I find the strength needed to be able to carry on when all is lost?” We hold no answers, though there are hints in the lyrics as to what our subjective thoughts on the matter are. Through our expression, the listener’s impression, interpretation, introspection and, finally, projection, the circle is complete.

Iiro: World domination – of course.

Are you happy with how it turned out?

Iiro: Extremely. Although I was 100% confident on our creation from the start, it still manages to surprise and inspire with each listen and each review I read. This has been one of the most rewarding things in my life.

Janne: The impressive artwork provided by Helgorth of Babalon Graphics really capped it off, and we are more than proud to call the Debemur Morti roster our home.

For a band who are just releasing their first album, how did you manage to write such a mature and complex record?

Janne: We have both composed lots of music during a couple of decades now, so it’s not like these are the first songs we ever wrote, haha. Practice makes perfect and, for my part, all those years of studying music theory, arranging and composing are paying off. Us being cousins helps the process as well; we have an uncanny, almost telepathic, connection sometimes, when our minds just seem to align and we think and create as one, finishing each other’s ideas and birthing new ones all at once. When we discovered this path of creation in January, we quickly realized that we had stumbled upon a gold mine of sorts – the music and lyrics just poured out, almost as if it had a mind of its own. Maybe Crom finally decided to lend a helping hand to his sons…haha! The complex arrangements and structures are a result of us simply not relenting until the songs were taken as far as possible in terms of epicness and magnification of the story. Hard work pays dividends.

Tell us a bit more about the vocals. They’re hugely impressive and multi-textured – how did you decide how they should sound in the different parts of the different songs?

Iiro: We just did what sounded best, basically. We both have our strengths regarding vocal styles and we utilize them in any way to reach the best possible outcome. We never (and probably never will) agree on specific “jobs” such as which one will be the lead singer or backup singer etc. Instead, we try it out and choose the option that fits a specific part the best. So, in a way, every song is sang as a duet.

What can you tell us about the lyrics?

Janne: The lyrics tell the tragic tale of a lone warrior’s quest for peace of mind, taking him through a violent path of death and destruction, supernatural horrors and other planes of existence, searching for the elusive spiritual rest of an ascended individual. As Dag Hammarskjöld wrote, “The longest journey is the journey inwards.” This is the main theme of “Riddle of Steel”. The different chapters of the story have their own treks and their own sets of metaphors, and they are all seminal to the whole of the album.

1Give us a bit of information on the songwriting process.

Iiro: It’s a rather naturally flowing process for us. There is no one way to explain it so I’ll give some examples. One thing we did (with ‘Victory’, as Janne mentioned earlier) is that first we just jammed some improvised drums and guitar and ended up recording the session. Afterwards we kept the drum track for the song and used most of the impro guitar riffs as well. Naturally the guitar riffs and melodies were re-recorded and maybe somewhat polished but in a way the song really almost made itself. On some occasions one has made a whole song as an individual and the other has just given some ideas for arrangement/lyrics/atmosphere. Sometimes we both have some nice sounding riffs and/or melodies and we just sew them together. What I want to emphasize though, is the actual role and importance of the process of songwriting – this is where the magic happens and we give it the time it deserves.

How do you see your songs/direction developing in the future?

Janne: We have already written some songs for the next album, and what I can reveal is that the stylistic leaps are probably even bigger than on “Riddle of Steel”. The primordial atmosphere and epic scope are of course intact, being important parts of our vision, but so is our principle of staying true to the story and not letting genre-specific constraints affect its possibilities, so expect the unexpected! The lyrical concept will be connected to “Riddle of Steel”, and you might even get to hear another language besides English…

What’s next for Sons of Crom?

Iiro: Well at the moment we are dealing with the aftermath of ‘Riddle of Steel’ and getting some merchandise out but after the dust settles, we concentrate on the next album and on the possibility of playing live in the future.

Janne: Promoting “Riddle of Steel” is the top priority for the time being, of course, and doing some gigs would certainly be awesome. Expect a very active future from Sons of Crom!

Sons of Crom – Riddle of Steel (Review)

Sons of CromSons of Crom are from Sweden and this is their début album. They play epic Viking-influenced Heavy/Black/Folk Metal.

This is thundering music with an interesting sound; it’s somewhere between Old-School and New and gives the band an interesting sheen.

We’ve heard this style before, of course, but this is a veritable exemplar of the sub-genre as it’s done exceedingly well.

Taking elements of bands such as Enslaved, Arcturus and, notably, Bathory, this is an impressive distillation of the quintessence of those bands, birthed anew in the form of Riddle of Steel.

The music and vocals are epic beyond all reason and you just can’t help but get carried away by the obvious passion and enthusiasm here. It’s hard to credit that this is a début album really as the level of maturity displayed on these songs is staggering. Each track is fully realised and boasts more features than many bands manage in a full album.

Epic melodies abound and the guitars really do draw out every last tiny bit of emotion possible from the instrument. This is Metal through and through in the best possible way. It’s Bathory updated for 2014 whilst remaining faithful and true to the original.

The vocals are varied and accomplished; they span everything from darker, rougher shouts, to higher screams, to a mid-ground semi-clean, to choral overlays. The delivery is masterful.

The music is richly textured and almost suffers from stimulation overload at points as there’s a lot going on and it’s all so damned grandiose!

This will likely be snapped up eagerly by fans of the Bathory/epic Viking Metal scene who are still hungry for all things of this nature. Unless you think Bathory are the be-all and end-all of this style then you should find more than enough to feast on here.

Turn it on, turn it up and get swept away in the huge nature of the band.

(Sample is from their Conqueror EP which is a taster of two tracks from the album)