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Sweden has long been a hotbed for music of heavier persuasion. Gothenburg, in particular, has been home to an influential melodic death metal scene. This has led to many lesser-known bands from that town, who fit other metal subgenres, being swept under the rug. It comes as no surprise, then, that Walk Through Fire, now four albums deep with Vår Avgrund (Our Abyss), have only amassed a small following. A shame, as what they do is worth listening to.
Doom metal, unlike its melodic deathly cousin, does not thrive on blast beats and guitar riffs at breakneck speed. On Vår Avgrund, however, Walk Through Fire take the tropes of doom metal to the extreme. At 75 minutes, the Swedes do not explore tempo changes, complex breakdowns or intricate time signatures.
Opening track ‘Avgrund’ (‘Abyss’) sets the tone for the album. It consists exclusively of slow chords, which reappear throughout the album to link individual songs together, creating an atmosphere that makes Vår Avgrund feel like one extended song.
Then suddenly, saxophone. Vår Avgrund is dark, depressive and melancholic for the most part, typical of doom metal, but ‘Vägar Mot Slutet’ (‘Roads Towards the End’) stands out. While the song does not differ much from the others in its first half, a saxophone joins the bass-heavy guitars at the six-minute mark and takes the lead with a surprisingly tasteful solo. It shouldn’t work, but it really does.
A closer look at the song writing over the length of Vår Avgrund reveals that Walk Through Fire delve into unusually atonal territory, even for a doom metal band. However, an examination of their back catalogue reveals that this is a studied, deliberate approach. On their last album they played selected works by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, renowned for his minimalist, often atonal pieces. Walk Through Fire appear to have learned a thing or two from this endeavour.
The album is exactly what it says it is. Vår Avgrund guides the listener down into a dark, depressing, bottomless pit, drawing in equal measure from the wells of conventional doom metal and minimalist music. Both styles work well together—the Swedish quartet prove that here over the course of an hour and fifteen minutes.
Sadly, Vår Avgrund is not without its faults. Its songs are almost indistinguishable from each other and offer few highlights, which only shines a light on its length. However, Walk Through Fire do show potential and are definitely a band that extreme metal fans should watch out for.