SOMETIMES an album comes along that is almost completely flawless -something that transforms what your understanding of what metal is; something that takes the clichéd genre sub-divisions and tips a heap of sonic abuse atop of the conventions.
To say such statements about any band would appear biased - but to say such things about a Northern Ireland metal act given the nature of this site would appear to be the most brown-nosed attitude of a reviewer.
But The Crawling's second album, 'Wolves And The Hideous White' is remarkable in the best sense of the word. Forget the labels 'doom' or 'death', this is pure metal, performed with a sense of bravura and seeping with bathos.
Yes, the sometimes hilarious YouTube series from Andy Clarke on the agonies of putting the recordings together give an insight into what bands go through but in the end The Crawling have put together six tracks that will have listeners contemplating the human condition...and wondering at what we are here in this fucked up 2018.
To be sure many walk these sonic echo chambers, but The Crawling give voice through exploration, yet the pain and agony of humanity is on Wolves and the Hideous White a cathartic journey.
We all feel disconnected in this connected world - but to hear that reflected by this three-piece is a validation that our loneliness and despair that we may feel and by the same token a mirror that allows us to be ourselves.
To make an extremely bold statement (I await the Twitter backlash) The Crawling have taken the torch held aloft by Geezer Butler and doused it in the flickering despair of a post-agreement fucked up Northern Ireland.
Yet the themes explored are universal, such as on the insistent 'Rancid Harmony', which has anyone with the least self-awareness being forced to look within.
What makes this lyrically an outstanding release is that the sonic assault mirrors it to such an extent that even if one were to ignore the words one would be forced to contemplate your own position in a universe that seems to push us by, ignoring our pleas and prayers. But that is what makes this special.
To hear and feel what we keep hidden in our darkest moments; the times when we stare in the darkness at the ceiling and wonder why we exist, is revelatory. We are not alone in these thought and fears. That we ae not alone is a service The Crawling provide.
Such deep sentiments about the human condition and the desire - no, more than desire, the need, to feel part of this fucked up human state is to sense we are not alone.
But by the same token the music Andy, Stuart and Gary have loosed upon the world is achingly beautiful. 'Drowned in Shallow Water' is perhaps a song that even after several listens - and a few more - moves one to tears.
True, there are but six songs on Wolves And The Hideous White, but they will rent your heart and help you explore your soul. If 'Anatomy Of Loss' set the landscape this album forces you to walk the path of broken paving and shattered glass. It is truly 'A Time for Broken Things'.
We want to belong, we want to be part of something - even if we cannot know what that exactly is - and we need to hold each other's spirit's together.
On this album The Crawling have done just that. True, they could have done without the tolling bell intro on 'Still No Sun' but that is just a petty jibe as we try to find some point to make...
To put it bluntly, this is an album you need in your life: Yes, it is musically impeccable (apart from yon bell!), and yes it taps into our deepest fears, but by dong so it is a chance for catharsis from the doomed melodies within. It is a chance to embrace the arrangements, to wallow in the emotions, to celebrate the fact that when metal is this good the dark themes explored are the most life-affirming sounds on this fucked up planet.
Review by Jonathan Traynor
Wolves and The Hideous White is available now for per-order
The official launch is on November 15th at Belfast's Empire, with Conjuring Fate, Neamhni and Disconnect providing support and is part of Belfast Music Week