One of the hardest working bands on the Northern Ireland scene, this debut full-length album from Baleful Creed is actually an amalgamation of the quartet’s three previous EPs bound together in one package.
BC’s stoner-edged doom sound is very much rooted in the foundation of Black Sabbath – something for which the band make no apology – but there is a whole lot more to it than just settling for regurgitating some legendary riffs, as the band take this influence as a reference point from which to explore a rich and varied range of soundscapes, which also tread the paths of classic metal, death, psychedelia and even grunge in places.
The main strength of the album – in addition to the huge, bottom-ended riffs which are essential to produce a sound as deep and dense as this – is its sense of the importance of melody and its subsequent deployment, to stunning effect. Take the dual vocal on ‘Autumn Leaves’ (one of many standout tracks) for example: Fin Finlay’s eases back on the vitriolic delivery which epitomizes the likes of the eponymous opening title track and the venomously acerbic ‘Illuminati’ to soften his tone – something he does with ease and fluidity throughout – as drummer Mark Stewart adds a layer of lightness which beautifully counterpoints and contrasts the darkness of the subject matter.
Musically, the performances are superb: Stewart’s no frills approach keeps the percussion solid and effective while Stephen Fleming’s bass work is as laconic and restrained as the man himself on stage. Finlay helps keep the rhythms tight and compact, allowing lead guitarist John Allen to weave patterns of light and dark that also eschew unnecessary embellishment in favour of the effective delivery of the band’s message, while Nigel Catherwood’s exemplary production captures the raw electricity of the Creed’s live sound.
While it may be an amalgam of previous releases, the album is thoughtfully paced, from the crunching opening bombardment of ‘Baleful Creed’ itself through the growl of ‘Illuminati’ to the lushness of ‘Crazy Man’, the bloozy swampwater grunt of ‘Double F.S.’ to the beautifully enrapturing psychedelic interlude in ‘Thorazine’ (one of this reviewer’s favourite live tracks) and the guttural ‘Suffer In Silence’.
Another album which epitomizes why the Northern Ireland metal scene is more alive and vibrant than ever, and attracting the sort of devoted followers bands across the world would give their right arms for…
Baleful Creed / Autumn Leaves / Illuminati / Crazy Man / Misanthrope / Double F.S. / Hex / Her Promise / Thorazine / Suffer In Silence
Recommended listening: Autumn Leaves