The disintegrating limestone spires which grade the gate-like view of Monte Cancervo read as a rugged mass of opportunistic barnacles on the elbow of along dormant titan, not such an unusual sight in terms of the northern Italian alpine region yet one could easily be inspired by the way the wall of spearheaded crags greet the climber from various angles upon approach. Lombardy-based heavy psychedelic doom metal trio Cancervo certainly haven’t chosen their band name on a whim, aligning their own brand of sojourning “heavy funeral psych” with the atmosphere of the mountain itself as a point of grounding, a muse to pull from. As they grip the iron chains to assist their climb and skate foot-width uphill paths on the way to the top their second full-length album in two years, ‘II‘, cannot help but vocalize the view emergent. That is to say that the trio’s formerly instrumental stoner doom metal dirgecraft now steps into the realm of vocal expression, rendering their sound invigorated and now fully characterized unto excellent results.

Cancervo formed back in 2020 with the intent of playing some kind of heavy rock and within a year they’d recorded an album’s worth of wholly instrumental stoner rock pieces somewhat in line with the fuzz-heavy, amplifier worshipping side of stoner music. That’d end up being their debut full-length album (‘I‘, 2021) which I’d considered reviewing at the time ’til I realized it’s Sleep influenced sound didn’t include vocals. This’ll be a tough one to fully breach in the sense that both records from the band are entirely different but come from the same family. No doubt any stoner metal or heavy rock fan reasonably engaged with their niche will appreciate what Cancervo did on that first album, a crunched-up fuzzscape record on an ascension trip, and that’ll have to tangentially relate to the lumbering, ritualistic heavy psychedelic doom rituals of ‘II‘ which generally have more in common with Zaum, Ethereal Riffian, and Om. You won’t find a direct continuation of the thread presented by ‘I‘ beyond some similar approach to some lingering guitar progressions but the keen-eared doom metal aficionado will find the substance of the music vastly invigorated and the personality unique to the band just beginning to emerge from its well-hidden hamlet.

One can expect to find an iron or steel cross cemented into the ground at the summit of many of the easier to access Italian alps, obstructing the best points of the view so that the awful middle finger of Christianity cannot be ignored by the rising sun. The sonorous, distant layers of humming group narration which dance across the slow and steady main riff of “Herdsman of Grem” tell one of the more interesting folklore inspired tales on ‘II‘, wherein a man is damned for an eternity for a crucifix-related offense. Most of these references are centered around superstitions and ‘occult’ tales and sayings relative to the area surrounding the mountain, giving some substantive reason to peck through the lyrics and glean the lyricist’s own exaggerations of those ideas, such as the depiction of a sinister church on “The Cult of Armentarga“. Bits of folk horror and minimal yet sometime haunting vocal performances help to set an exceptional tone for the album, one which begins to vaguely align with the classics of Italian doom on some distant pathway despite the slow, stoney ease which ‘II‘ leads with.

Thirty-six minutes can feel like a lifetime if you spend ’em slow-motion snaking through just two or three riffs per 5-6 minute piece, in the case of Cancervo it feels about ten minutes longer than it actually is due to consistent pacing and simple yet hypnotic riffcraft dominating a decidedly minimal yet warmed enough recording. We’re not getting a fully on 70’s throwback or a late 90’s stoner/doom buzz fest but something tuned to a meditative wavelength with an ominous hand applied. Opener “Arera” and “Devil’s Coffin” have an nigh Saturnalia Temple-esque trance to some of their movement and guitar tones which’d drawn me into the album with some immediate interest up front thanks to single rhythm guitar presence lending some strong value to the bass guitar performances and emphasizing the leads when they do perk up. That doesn’t mean the instrumental, jam-built side of the band has fully left the building, though, if we take a closer ear to “Zambla” over on Side B they’ve simply applied a major note of doom to everything they do.

That’d be about as deep as anyone might need to dive into such an easily read and enjoyable hit of gloomy psychedelic doom metal. The listening experience is steady and hypnotic in its slow progress making for a trip which rarely breaks its current but keeps things interesting with differently tuneful approaches. Of course the vocals will improve over time, not every bit of their choices work a hundred percent of the time, but their inclusion does so much to build a mood and plenty of character for this formerly kinda plain stoner metal act. I’d found the full listen hexing, fixating to the point of many repeat listens, and substantive enough when considering the folkloric focus of their lyrics and the heady drift of each song flowing in dreamlike succession. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Electric Valley Records
RELEASE DATE:January 27th, 2023

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.