Even at his busiest, doom metal maestro Leif Edling was always incredibly productive, putting out numerous albums with his various projects, dating back to the 1980s with main band Candlemass. However, recent health issues have unfortunately left him unable to tour, allowing him with time to craft even more music. Never Machine, first released independently earlier this year, is our initial glimpse of The Doomsday Kingdom, his most recent excursion into metal’s most morose genre.
The most important thing to remember when listening to this release is that it is a demo. Although it is being issued by Nuclear Blast, it was recorded independently before the project was signed, so it does not have the sort of recording budget you might expect from a label of NB’s size. This is how it was recorded, warts and all, so it’s a little easier to give the benefit of the doubt when considering the flaws the demo has. This is glaringly obvious as soon as the fuzzy guitar tone opens the title track. Niklas Stålvind, front man of Swedish heavy metal bastards Wolf, takes the lead on vocals, and does a fine job, his powerful wail lending itself well to the doom style music. Traditional heavy and doom have always been closely entwined, and Leif has previously shown that he has the chops to gear his song writing to bring the best out of a voice like Stålvind’s, so it is no surprise that his vocals fit like a glove. That said, they are quite well produced, and sound slightly at odds with the rawer guitar sound. They’re also pushed quite far forward in the mix, whereas the drums are buried a bit too much for them to have any sort of real impact.
Eponymous opener “Never Machine” has the hallmarks you’d expect from Leif. The riff is heavy and sinister sounding, whilst also having a melodic, sorrowful quality. The song moves along at a steady pace, before a sudden piano part breaks things up. The way it’s dropped in is quite choppy, and the shift to the following guitar solo even more so. The transitions in general are quite jarring, and are evidence of another problem; the song structures are a little rough around the edges, and things don’t flow as smoothly as you’d like. Again this can be brought back to the fact this is only a demo, so there’s bound to be a moment or two where things get a bit patchy.
“The Sceptre” is in a similar mould, although is a little more intense and immediate. There’s a good use of keys to heighten the atmosphere and a nice solo from Marcus Jidell to boot. “Zodiac City” has a quiet, ominous opening and a deeper vocal approach from Stålvind to match the unsettling atmosphere. He captures the mood of the lyrics well, particularly in the heavier chorus. The Leif fronted “The Whispering” closes the demo; a gentle, acoustic number that makes effective use of subtle, mournful keys courtesy of a mellotron, as well as strings and backing choirs.
I can’t say this is an excellent release, but it’s relatively decent and shows great potential. As it’s only a demo, there’s bound to be a number of issues that would be addressed on a proper, mass produced recording. The songs themselves are solid and could show some real depth and quality with some adjustments. The lack of a label backed production does rob the music of some of its potency, and you can only imagine how good some of this might sound with some studio polish (or even just a more balanced mix if Leif prefers the rawer approach). As it stands, Never Machine gives a glimpse of what The Doomsday Kingdom could offer, but we’ll have to wait until next year’s full length album to see whether that potential could be met, or even surpassed.
Rating: 6/10 – solid doom demo that’s a little rough around the edges.
Highlights: “Zodiac City”