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Black Swamp Water - Awakening

Black Swamp Water
by Chris Hicklin at 22 November 2021, 4:18 PM

BLACK SWAMP WATER have been busy, never a band to rest on their laurels, following up 2018’s promising but slightly clunky “Distant Thunder” with “The Awakening” the outfit is now on their third album in just five years. The good news is that the band has continued to hone their skills and their sound and have assembled a release that is a considerable sonic improvement on their sophomore effort, with great strides made in the quality of their compositions too. Now, for the uninitiated a name like BLACK SWAMP WATER may evoke visions of sweaty, bearded Americans wrestling alligators with one hand while trying not to spill the beer in the other, and with a slight geographical amendment (the band is actually from Denmark) you wouldn’t be too far off. The band takes some cues from the Sludge Metal scene that came out of Southern Rock, such as EYEHATEGOD or CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, but there’s a more traditional Hard Rock edge to the music as well.

Proceedings commence with “Roll Over,” which makes no effort to hide its influences. It could be straight out of Zakk Wylde era Ozzy, and it has the cowbell to prove it. Muscular riffing makes some space for a dirty sounding bass under the verses, and a Glammy sing-along chorus. It’s a solid toe tapper to get the album under way, a theme which continues with “Showdown” another brawny Southern Rocker but with a more fluid Legato based guitar riff that is a lot of fun.

The band shifts up a gear with the energetic and agitated “Endless War”, the third single from the LP, and a track which leaves the friendlier climes of Hard Rock for the cold battlefield of Metal riffing. The track opens with a stunning drum intro from Kim Langkjær Jensen (DAWN OF DEMISE, ILLDISPOSED,) and a churning, grooving Thrash riff. The lyrics are brutal and angry, lamenting the state of perpetual violence the world finds itself mired in. This one has a great video you should check out, with the band performing in various insalubrious locations looking like they just escaped a gang fight.

At this point the band settles down a little, showcasing a more lo-fi ethic on the Mid Tempo blues influenced “Send Me Away”. It’s decent enough, but it never really gets up from its seat at the bar. - I feel the same can be said for “Better Days”, an unambitious Hard Rocker with a cliched, awkward riff and an instantly forgettable chorus.
I’m not sure who’s perspective “Disappoint Me” is being told from, should we feel for the child who is on the receiving end of their father’s disdain, or are we to feel anger at the overbearing and demanding patriarch? I don’t know, the lyrics are thoroughly entertaining, but if you’ve got any outstanding parental issues you might want to give this one a miss. As a tune goes, it’s a dank, grungy riff with a good singable chorus, and an impressive Stoner-like instrumental section that makes up for the enforced lag caused by the previous two tracks.

One of the more redundant contributions is the cover of BLACK SABBATH’SChildren of the Grave”. There’s nothing specifically wrong with it, but aside from updated production values and modern guitar tones, it’s not that different to the original and seems a little superfluous. I think if you are going to give over precious album time to somebody else’s tune, you should do something distinguished with it, and this doesn’t achieve that.

Guitars are finally fully unleashed on “Now That I Know”, which unlike the rest of the album features multiple impressive solo moments, the song is much more interesting instrumentally than it is lyrically or vocally though. This paves the way for the final track “Hammer You Down”, which is a slow foot stomper that takes a stab at a big arena filling chorus. It’s not quite there as it just doesn’t have the requisite hook but features another quality solo and some soulful vocal delivery by Bjørn Bølling Nyholm.
This is a decent album either for a night of drinking with your friends or to sit down and give a proper listen to, it has enough serious moments to satisfy the sober listener, but the main themes are grooving, riffing fun. There is some occasional sparkle to Tue Madsen’s production that lifts some of the grinding riffs out of the swamp, but overall, the sound is a bit flat, although the musicianship is faultless throughout. It is let down by a few turgid entries and the gratuitous cover version, but overall is a positive experience.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Roll Over
2. Showdown
3. Endless War
4. Send Me Away
5. Better Days
6. Disappoint Me
7. Children of The Grave
8. Now That I Know
9. Hammer You Down
Bjørn Bølling Nyholm - vocals
Jan Geert - guitar
Thomas Roland - guitar
Jeppe Birch Friis - bass
Kim Langkjær Jensen – drums
Record Label: Mighty Music


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