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Craneium – Unknown Heights

Unknown Heights
by Neil Beardsley at 14 December 2021, 5:56 AM

A Trip Down Meloncholia Drive - Way back in the early 90's this fresh faced reviewer was still in College trying to make a 'difference'. In my rucksack would be stacks of scran (food), books, stationary and most vitality the sound track to my mid to late teens. That came in the shape of my Marty McFly Walkman and a small cassette (yes cassettes youngsters) carry case. 6 Cassettes to be precise. Several C90 mix tapes of mainly thrash, some potted metal and one which I'd naively titled 'Alternative'. That tape contained classics from Alice In Chains, Dinosaur Jr, Soundgarden, Sugar, Pearl Jam blah blah blah. It was a solid favourite and holds precious memories for me. Fast forward 20 odd years and I find myself reviewing the 3rd studio album by Finnish Doom/Stoner/Fuzz metal band Craneium. Wow! I am instantly time travelling back, like the aforementioned McFly to the 90's (yes I know 1985)! Not because 'Unknown Heights' is a dead ringer for Motherlovebone (many similarities but more a love child of Monster Magnet and Candlemass) but because of some of the song structures, vocals and some brilliant guitar work.

Formed in Turku in 2011, Craneium have, prior to 'Unknown Heights' released an EP and 2 full studio albums. The last being 2018's 'The Narrow Line' which was very good and drew some positive reviews, however there was nothing there to suggest that they could produce anything as good as 'Unknown Heights'. So, yeah, it's good, I mean very very good…Album opener 'Secret Garden' launches us immediately into 70's Acid Rock with rousing chorus, wonderful bass line and the first hint that vocalists and guitarists Martin Ahlo and Andrea's Kajan are in full pomp on this recording. The other immediate thought is how much improved the production and mix are. This track is definitely one of my favourite individual songs on the year.

We're sent into much 'doomier' territory with the second track 'Somber Aeons'. This is a song where the rhythm section of bassist Jonas Ridberg and drummer Joel Kronqvist come into their own. Kronqvists beats a heavy intro into a track that wouldn’t go a miss on Alice In Chains 'Jar Of Flies' EP. “Darkness is Everything” they conclude. Two songs in and I'm fully immersed on the journey Craneium have laid out for me. I’m on board! The musicianship on the tumultuous third track 'Weight To Carry' is sublime. This 8 minute (feels like 4) monster takes us through a cornucopia of genres including psychedelic, doom and stoner and includes 3 concurrent running solos. And despite the fact there are no tempo changes and its lengthy running time our attention never waivers. Its during 'Weight To Carry' that the Monster Magnet comparison is at its most prevalent.

It was around about this point that I realised what a fantastic vocal performance we were being treated to. Not only the rich lead vocals but the melodic backing harmonies throughout the album. The vocals shine again on the next track 'Shine Again'. I love this track. Builds beautifully from disciplined structure to wild unadulterated pleasures by the end which leads nicely into 'The Devil Rides' easily the most commercial track on the album. If by the end of this you’re not windmilling wildly on your air guitar then you truly have no soul. Then finally we arrive at the title track of the album. A building storm of a song that eases us in with a whimsical but beautiful riff before ramping up the tempo to a magnificent coup de gras of a solo outro…

Like I said, this album has stirred all kinds of emotions in me, maybe because it reminded me of my youth and that can be enough for many people to fall in love with something. 'Unknown Heights' came as a real surprise, not because they're not talented but because this is such a huge leap forward in quality. If album 4 improves still further then we could potentially be looking at an all time metal classic, that being said Craneium have produced an album that I have and will be returning to on a regular basis, hell I’ll most probably buy the splatter vinyl!

Now hand me my flannel shirt and skateboard!

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. A Secret Garden
2. Somber Aeons
3. Weight To Carry
4. Shine Again
5. The Devil Drives
6. Unknown Heights
Martin Ahlo – Vocals/Guitars
Andreas Kajan – Vocals/Guitars
Joel Kronqvist – Drums
Jonas Ridberg - Bass
Record Label: The Sign Records


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