Caregah garnered attention outside of Sweden with their fourth video-single, ‘Tomahawk’, in 2022. As a vibrant mix of sludge and stoner metal, it appeared on their debut Forsaken EP, released in March this year, yet they approach their first album with a meaner and crunchier guitar tone reminiscent of the classic metal bands from the 1990s. The quartet’s riff-guided cauldron of groove metal and hard rock is just what you need in a sea of dismal death metal bands and oversaturated black metal pretenders. It might not be reinventing anything, but it reminds you that heavy guitar music must never forget to entertain the listener.
Look no further if you want something to turn your gurning face into a scorching recognition of the air guitar’s primal embodiment of all that is great about metal. Opener, ‘Forever Merciless’, is as unsentimental as the title suggests. Masculine palm-muted guitars scythe through the mix like predatory beasts hunting their dinner. Vocal lines pulsate in a husk of crazed-eyed warnings. Think Entombed’s mid-90s venture into the rougher outskirts of heavy metal with the muscle of Corrosion of Conformity and the grinding basslines of Fudge Tunnel. There’s no time to waste teasing you with titbits of granite rhythms that withdraw for the vocal-led verses. Caregah keep everything at maximum levels of velocity. Follow-up, ‘Steel’, needs little in the way of explanation with such a powerful arsenal of pentatonic metal movements and grisly voice phrasings guiding you through the action. “We came, we saw, we conquered,” roars Per Marcus Kärregård as if fronting a version of Black Label Society on steroids.
Caregah’s greatest achievement is the way they sharpen their morbid doom chords with the fiercest of metallic shapes. ‘Revenge’ is like an impenetrable pillbox hiding a gunner in its walls. Nothing can get past it nor interrupt its rhythm. Yet drill down into the interplay of vocals and guitars and you can hear its rudimentary song writing foundations. It’s possible that axeman, Patrik Edvin Åkerlund, sat down with a telecaster to plan this expedition with Marcus on a line-by-line basis and then transformed the basic ingredients into a stir fry dish of sizzling guitar sequences ready for a Machine Head concert. You’ve every reason to expect more of the same at the halfway point, but the band dare to insert a power ballad where you hope for another crispy offering of classic groove metal stylings. ‘Tombstone’ will require multiple listens before you can appreciate its timbres. A constant throughout is the range of Marcus’ vocal talents, which often bounce between menacing baritone projections to throat-heavy deliberations. Fans of the classic Jar of Flies EP by Alice in Chains will admire the resonance of the nylon guitar strings as they pluck melodies like apples from a tree.
Like all memorable albums, Caregah understand the need to sustain a force of momentum that cannot be slowed down. The double-header of ‘Terrorized’ and ‘Smoke of Doom’ achieve this purpose in style. Listen how the former thrives on an infectious mosh groove in support of the hard rock vehemence of the vocals. Only Prong know how to put the sharp syncopated riffs to better use in a chorus. The latter works from pinch-harmonic extravagance to bone-headed down-picking as if ghost-writing for a future Ozzy Osbourne album that will never surface. Caregah can produce a chorus as effective as Kill Devil Hill, perhaps even better. Unlike their American peers, they know that songs led by the command of the vocals can tame the power of the guitars. Not here, where the middle eight grinds through a succession of colossal riffs for the heavy metal faithful.
Osmium is a commando operation rather than a protracted offensive. The songs come and go and leave you rattled but free from the dangers of oppression. ‘Into the Grave’ needs less than two minutes to drag you along in its violent embrace of down-tuned headbanging thrash, like Metallica’s heavier moments in the mid-90s. Closing track, ‘Floods of No Return’, might be the only effort to invite scepticism. A 1970s hard-rock lick concealed in the mitts of Pantera and thickened with a swampy distortion is an underwhelming way to brings things to a close. But it still does the job, and that job is to rescue you from the tyranny of musical mediocrity. This album rocks.
Release Date: 06/10/2023
Record Label: Self-released
Standout tracks: Forever Merciless, Revenge, Smoke of Doom
Suggested Further Listening: Corrosion of Conformity – Deliverance (1996), Löwdown – All Hail the Riff EP (2023), Entombed – DCLXVI: To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth (1997)