It’s difficult to craft a sludge record taking cues from Black Sabbath without sounding too much like operatic arena rock or like the riffs were stolen from influencing artists. And the doom genre as a whole doesn’t allow for much deviation from the norm; if the songs are too fast, they don’t fall into that category, but if they’re too much of a dirge they would be considered more drone-like. It’s the vocals that set most of these bands apart – delivery is everything, and the deep-throated growl has become the average.
But Dresden/Leningrad, a stoner doom band from Amsterdam, work with the older stylings of doom. The vocals sound like Alice in Chains, but the slow, chugging riffs come from the harsher tones of current doom metal. The band uses an effective pairing of the two sounds to craft Vader, a four-song EP that plods along with a good sense of direction and some catchy rhythms.
Opener “Vader” works somewhat like an intro; the guitar repeats, the drums pound, and the vocals wail away without much change throughout; at six minutes, it’s an overly long beginning and a less expansive one than the other songs on the album, but it sets the listener up for what’s to come in the next track “Herder”; a simple but effective guitar line is matched with the aforementioned Alice in Chains-stylized vocals. The production is a little rough, and the vocals are placed a bit too high in the mix for my taste (the delivery isn’t the best, somewhat nasally, and the guitar licks are what really drives this stuff) but the effort is noted.
The last two tracks, “Slaap” and “Niemandsland”, feature slow but catchy rhythms, with “Slaap” in particular shuffling along at such a stunted pace that it’s surprising that the whole thing doesn’t fall apart. “Niemandsland” is an extended track at over ten minutes; it combines the doom with the war themes of the album with background noises from battle. While it does tend to drone on for a bit too long because of its repetitive nature, it’s a culmination of what Dresden/Leningrad are working towards throughout Vader. The two final tracks seem to have vocals that have been pared back as well, giving the guitars more room to sprawl.
It’s a good beginning for a band in a heavily saturated market. Dresden/Leningrad carve out a specific niche with this EP, and the DIY aesthetics of the sound work well to muddy the sludgy tones even more. It’s a project to keep an eye on, at least, one that seems to be trying to carry on a faltering blend of doom metal that takes influence from Sabbath and Sleep more than Eyehategod.