Review Summary: Count Raven may not be the most consistent band as far as actual release dates go, but their tried-and-true style can always be counted on.
Twelve years have passed since Count Raven released 2009’s Mammons War, which itself came out thirteen years after 1996’s Messiah Of Confusion. But despite these long gaps between albums, the Swedes’ sixth full-length, appropriately titled The Sixth Wave, has all the traits that have made them an institution in traditional doom. The riffs continue to pull from the playbook of Black Sabbath and Trouble while the vocals are consistently delivered in a nasally Ozzy-esque wail.
Right off the bat, it must be said that the production job is considerably rougher than their previous releases. In addition to some Loudness War tendencies distorting the overall presentation, the guitars completely dominate the mix with an almost overbearingly chunky tone. The vocals consequently feel drowned out and the drums have a somewhat digitized feel to them. It's not a serious dealbreaker since the actual performances are incredibly tight, but it is an unfortunate contrast to their past clarity.
Thankfully the songwriting seems to compensate for this conundrum by placing emphasis on more direct rhythms and riff-oriented structures. While Count Raven has always had the riffy edge that one would expect from an orthodox doom group best demonstrated by the Viking stomp of ‘Oden,’ they didn’t usually opt for the pulsating Uncle Acid-esque rhythm that drives the opening ‘Blood Pope’ nor the pounding chugs of ‘The Curse’ and ‘The Ending.’ The pastoral keyboard-focused musings of ‘Heaven’s Door’ and ‘Goodbye’ also provides some dynamic change of pace, but potentially run a little too long.
Speaking of which, the album’s length may be another point of concern for some. With each Count Raven release getting gradually longer than the one before it, it makes sense for this to be their longest effort to date. Fortunately, a nine-song total is easier to work with than their usual eleven to thirteen. There are a couple songs that could stand to be trimmed of their more superfluous segments, but the consistent hustle makes for a decently smooth listen. Seventy-three minutes of any genre can be a lot to take in.
Despite a few chinks in the armor, The Sixth Wave is ultimately an enjoyable work of traditional doom. Once you get used to the somewhat flawed production, the performances reveal themselves to be quite solid and the riff heavy approach makes for some solidly groovy tracks. It would’ve made for a more accessible listen with more balanced production and a shorter runtime, but the faithful should still find a lot to love. Count Raven may not be the most consistent band as far as actual release dates go, but their tried-and-true style can always be counted on.