FIREBREATHER – Dwell in the Fog (2022)REVIEW

Grabbed by the head and the hips, we are welcomed inward with every step, no longer wandering but virtually spelunking into the depths of Gothenburg stoner doom/sludge metal trio Firebreather‘s return to the abyss with their third and I’d say best full-length to date. ‘Dwell in the Fog‘ entertains just as heavy rock music should, focusing on six mammoth grooves in barreling trance as they smartly lean into heavier psychedelic doom metal jams and double down on their steadfast style trip, pushing Pike-esque buttons even more readily than before. It took a few tries finding the right thunder-doomed tones and the best-fitting gathering of three but these Swedes have managed an infinitely cyclable descent to become lost within.

Vocalist/guitarist Mattias Nööjd had achieved some notable success within the similarly shaped groove of Galvano in the first half of the 2010’s, signing up for and delivering Candlelight and Pelagic Records releases before shifting gears to the decidedly more stoney Firebreather in 2016, eventually signing to one of my favorite heavy rock labels, RidingEasy Records. Though I don’t know if they’d intended a direct successorship the original line-up featured members/ex-members of Galvano and some of that’d directly translated into their debut (‘Firebreather‘, 2017). At that point they were already on their third drummer, replacing the original with Axel Wittbeck (ex-Highrider) in 2016 before recording ‘Under a Blood Moon‘ (2019). The knot continues to tie in all directions as their original bassist, who’d played on the first two albums, was replaced by Nicklas Hellqvist (Aztakea) in 2018. If you’re starting to get confused it is because each record was likely recorded at least 2-3 years prior to their release by my count, since the engineer for the second album had passed away before the first released. The takeaway here is that Nööjd is the creative director for the Firebreather experience and prone to work ahead, likely for the sake of promoting each record on the road.

In the space of five years I’ve gone from “This sounds like High on Fire‘s early stuff” in 2017 to “Yes, this sounds like -that- but they’re working in a different direction” in 2019 and now I suppose I’ve reached the acceptance stage where, sure, Nööjd carries a tune much like a younger Matt Pike and their production sound is fashioned after certain sludged-up stoner doom classics but that doesn’t nullify that Firebreather have been cranking out fine records with a worthy take on sludge-heavy psychedelic doom, a short hike beyond the norm at the very least. It goes without saying that fans of ‘The Art of Self Defense‘ and ‘Blessed Black Wings‘ as well as groups like Weedeater and Eagle Twin should appreciate their approach and fans of ’98-’05 Crowbar should appreciate their use of vocal melody. Quick examination of Nööjd‘s riffcraft from album to album should show a knack for songcraft developed through iteration wherein ‘Dwell in the Fog‘ now features engaging melodic directive throughout its length. That’ll be about all the warning needed, they don’t have the most original gig when quick-scanned by ear but Firebreather are definitely working their own angle into a familiar sound when taking a closer listen.

At six songs and roughly forty minutes ‘Dwell in the Fog‘ is evenly spaced into seven minute chunks, each song arranged with similar points (or types) of impact which encircle memorable choruses. The vocal melodies intend a cathartic struggle for the most part, such as on the title track, and this gives the album an even more serious tonality than the comparatively sprawling creep of ‘Under a Blood Moon‘. “Weather the Storm” is a strong example of a piece that could’ve been a romp if it wanted to be with big swinging stoner metal riffs and huge grooves giving way to kicking rock beats underneath certain verses. Nööjd‘s pained and concrete encased vocals take us on a ride through despair nonetheless, given to constant insertion of what I’d consider psychedelic doom metal riffcraft and appreciably huge drum presence. It is also worth noting that there aren’t a ton of leads on this album but when they do fire off they’re certainly made to count as fitting spectacle and statement per song (see also: “Spirits Flown”). You’ll get where they’re going with this sound by the end of Side A and it wouldn’t make much sense to dig up details track-by-track, though I will suggest “The Creed” as a standout for my own taste.

As I’d suggested earlier the appeal of this album is pretty straightforward, it is their most engaging and cohesive full-length thus far and I’ve had a great time sitting back and enjoying its gloomy grooves. Though I don’t know how it’ll hold up over time I do believe this is the new high benchmark for Firebreather‘s trip, especially in terms of presentation. As a fellow who’d grown up staring at the artwork on Magic: The Gathering cards more than I’d managed to play the game, the album art they’ve selected for ‘Dwell in the Fog‘ is the exact right choice and will probably inspire many a vinyl grab on sight, myself included. It’ll sound trite but it counts for something that I was well entertained by the cave-diving intensity of this record and came out the other side of it having enjoyed myself, your results will vary and for obvious enough reasons. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (75/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Dwell in the Fog
LABEL(S):RidingEasy Records
RELEASE DATE:February 25th, 2022

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