Norwegians Saint Karloff formed in 2015 and their debut full-length All Heed the Black God followed in 2018. The latest album Paleolithic War Crimes (Majestic Mountain Records) comes as something of a bittersweet release following the sad loss of bassist and founding member Ole ‘Karloff’ Sletner in 2021 (RIP). The writing for this record had started in 2019 with Ole very much on board and to quote the band ultimately, “reflects a band in transition and exploring new paths, but at the same time it retains that proper heavy Karloff-vibe.”
Saint Karloff had been on something of a high following their excellent sophomore album Interstellar Voodoo in 2019. That album was hugely ambitious featuring as it did one forty-minute track that felt genuinely progressive and more musically engaging than what the likes of Mastodon produce. The current line-up consists of guitarist/vocalist Mads Melvold, drummer Adam Suleiman and Ole’s brother Eivind who joins as lyricist/designer. For live work, the band have enlisted the services of Jointhugger‘s Nico Munkvold on nass.
‘Psychedelic Man’, the first single to be released from the album, sonically resembles Corrosion of Conformity Deliverance era as well as 1970’s Black Sabbath, especially with the Ozzy-esque vocals. The riffs on this thing are absolutely massive and there is a real swing to the drums too in the Bill Ward vein that help stand Saint Karloff out from their contemporaries who seem more content to focus on volume and being as ‘crushing’ as possible. A barnstorming opener.
‘Blood Meridian’ employs yet more fat grooves with a bluesy Southern Rock ZZ Top vibe as well as some psych atmospherics and prog flourishes that remind one of classic Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, is that a Moog/Hammond organ I detect? (Insert thoughtful emoji here). Whatever the case it’s yet another belter.
‘Among Stone Columns’ the shortest track on the album at a mere two minutes, is a lovely mellow instrumental piece and demonstrates that the band are no one trick pony, (much like ‘Orchid’ and ‘Embryo’ did for the Sabs) before the far more hard-hitting ‘Bone Cave Escape’ kicks in. The second single from the album on this evidence I can hear why it was put out. Faster and more aggressive, there are definite shades of Soundgarden and Chris Cornell, while the presence of a Spanish guitar in parts highlights the band’s effortless versatility, a veritable beast of a track.
‘Nothing to Come’ betrays a Jethro Tull influence and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mads perched on one leg ala Ian Anderson with a flute during live performances. So if the thought of Blood Ceremony‘s brand of proggy folk-laden doom metal whets your appetite then you’ll be in your element here. Great stuff.
‘Death Don’t Have No Mercy’ is a little bluesier, think Robert Johnson if he fronted a Doom band. I was also reminded of bands such as Westing (formerly Slow Season), who in turn took cues from Led Zeppelin. Far more authentic than what those Greta Van Fleet chaps are doing, that’s for damn sure, and it’s indicative of a band expanding their musical horizons without sacrificing their core sound.
‘Supralux Voyager’ as implied by the name has a spacier psychedelic feel about it, think Pink Floyd and UFO‘s first couple of albums. The longest track on the album, it makes for a tripped-out and ultimately rewarding conclusion to the album.
Where most bands would have imploded following such an awful event, Saint Karloff have instead managed to conjure up this sublime piece of work.
Diverse, intelligent, captivating, and a strong contender for my end-of-year top ten.
Buy the album here:
9 / 10