ALBUM REVIEW: Shaam Larein – ‘Sticka En Kniv I Världen’

Artwork for Shaam Larein’s ‘Sticka En Kniv I Världen’ - a face comprised of blue squiggles with a blank expression. In one of the eyes is a moon shape

December is here. As we hurtle towards the doom and gloom of winter (or, in contrast, the joyful celebratory yuletide season, which doesn’t apply here so we’ll forget it for now), it’s time to embrace some powerful, gothic dirge.

This edition of dirge comes courtesy of avant-garde Swedish band Shaam Larein. Named after their lead singer with family ties to Syria, Middle Eastern melodies build on top of Scandinavian art-metal to craft a chilling cocktail. The range of influence doesn’t end there. Having grown up on stage in her family’s travelling theatre, to then finding her voice as a jazz singer, Larein’s powerful voice blends a soothing beauty to the slow-churning underbelly. Sharing familiarities with Emma Ruth Rundle or Chelsea Wolfe—both experts in finding beauty amongst gothic ruins—it’s all, in the band’s words, “a touch of aggression mixed with passion”.

For an album titled Sticka En Kniv I Världen (“stick a knife into the world”), that says it all. Minor guitar notes ring out over pounding toms on the opening title track, a musical signpost for ‘danger lies ahead’ before echoey vocals and doom chords join the sombre party. The track opens up to provide ambient space between the instruments at times, other times going full-throttle to evoke an elaborate goth rock opera in front of our very eyes (or ears), with the occasional sludgy stoner-rock turns. There’s of course imagery of flesh and flowers; there’s that “aggression mixed with passion” we learned about.

On that skin-based path, Flesh Of Gold lumbers along with a plodding bassline and cymbal crashes. Larein’s vocals are doubled up to act as some sort of Sybil chorus discussing the plans of the moon or something or other. Beware The Duchess takes us on a riff-based journey that could draw parallels with Maiden’s cinematic metal, and Larein’s high register successfully supplies the goosebumps. I Have No Face works well as a soliloquy, its backing music building to a crashing outro, a similarly stunning vocal spotlight can be found on the morose Leave Me Here To Die, which serves as the penultimate reflective moment and the album cherry-on-top.

For all the excellence of Larein’s vocal range, the instrumentals leave a little to be desired. It feels made for a stage, especially the starting moments of closer Massacre which have all the makings of a dark showtune. Fans of the operatic and the macabre will find loads to chew over and enjoy; it’s a project that makes dynamic builds seem easy, but the whole package is not as unusual as it could, or should, be. Murderer features some vibrato bends and delay pedals for added unease for instance, but it’s not something we haven’t experienced before.

Gothic music at its very heart tends to be over the top. Hell, Type O Negative blended vampiric lust with dick jokes, and Misfits didn’t exactly exclude themselves from B-movie cheese, but often Shaam Larein comes off as midway Halloweeny theatricality, rather than going full-on nonsense or tasteful lament. Not to take away from the singer’s excellent delivery, but it feels like wanting to be completely consumed but ultimately left waiting for a bludgeoning beast to truly devour you.

For fans of: Blood Moon, Emma Ruth Rundle, Nightwish

‘Sticka En Kniv I Världen’ by Shaam Larein is released on 9th December on Svart Records.

Words by Elliot Burr

Leave a Reply