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Black Totem – II: Shapeshifting

Black Totem
II: Shapeshifting
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 15 February 2021, 7:01 AM

As a reviewer, I always think I've heard it all. That isn't necessarily a bad thought as good music is good music.  After all, not every band can be innovative and there isn’t much originality left. Or so I thought. Enter BLACK TOTEM, a Finnish band who have released two EPs and a self-titled debut. Their second album, "II: Shapeshifting," is a very unique and contains a refreshing sound across its 35 minute, 10 track run time.

Doing my research on the band, I ran across the mentioning of genres like "death rock" "bleeding blues" and "garage doom." I don't know what any of that means but I do know what I hear. And what I hear is an original album that combines blues, doom, and punk rock into a potent mix that I've never heard before. The Danzig/Samhian influences are obvious but he hasn't made a good album in a thousand years so now BLACK TOTEM are the masters of macabre goth.

The first track "Begone Vampire," immediately establishes the album's overall sound.  It definitely has a vintage sound but still has a modern sheen on it. The opening riffs are accompanied by a wail and then the band kicks into high gear. The speed and structure of the songs are pure punk, including the seemingly nonstop energy permeating from the band's ranks. The riffs, especially during the chorus, are blues swamp but thick enough to satisfy the doom lovers (me).

The riffs in "The Devil" are dripping with blues and doom but also feel a bit old school southern. The chorus is catchy as hell, a classic punk example of being repetitive in a good way. The bass is massive, its own little monster hidden within the casing of these songs of amalgamation. The drums are loud yet crisp—they lay down a strong foundation but are essential as anything else. "Bloodstained Owl," is an odd song in the beginning with very weird sounds coming from the vocalist. But the song itself is just wonderful. Its mid paced but has this "dragged through the mud" feel to it without being actual sludge style. The vocalist Spit Poison has a certain theatrical swagger to his voice and his cadence is on point.

"Backyard Corpse Blues," has riffs that are heavy as a ten ton hammer and evil as hell. The tempo of the song is perfect and the musical tones are tight and frightening. The later half of the song with the rambling drums and blues guitar is clever and makes the song all the better. The final track, "Warlock," is a smokey and haze filled romp that is filled with doomed blues. This slower, more muck filled track is right up my alley and it really hypnotized me, especially the ending riffs and vocals.

BLACK TOTEM’s "II: Shapeshifting," is an exceptional album that will appeal to a wide variety music listeners. Even if you don't like any of the individual genre they throw together, you'll probably still find this a fun romp.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Begone Vampire
2. The Devil
3. 1990’s
4. Black Nekro Gloves
5. Bloodstained Owl
6. Ghoul of Crow Swamp
7. Dead Meat
8. Backyard Corpse Blues
9. Welcome Lucifer
10. Warlock
Spit Poison – Vocals, Guitars
Wera Wolf – Vocals, Bass
Sam Hate – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Tony Cash – Drums, Backing Vocals
Record Label: Svart Records


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Edited 28 March 2023

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