Raise the Cairn
posted on 8/2011 By:
It’s always nice when the one-man side project doesn’t end up sounding like a wafer-thin version of the full ensemble. Case in point: Cairn, the sole creation of Samu Rahn, guitarist in Chicago’s prog/doomster act The Living Fields. Rahn avoids the instant-comparison-pitfall by designing his personal project to be far more stripped down – especially when compared to the often grandiose offerings of The Living Fields – and, well, more personal in nature. The result is a quite pleasant and extremely promising 24-minute EP, Raise the Cairn.
Despite being a five-track EP, Raise the Cairn is essentially the tale of two songs. The first is the two-part “Magnapinna Rex.” (The two parts are separated by an acoustic interlude.) Beginning with a tasteful, folk-acoustic intro of its own, the song then enters mid-paced folk/black metal terrain, sounding like a hybrid of Eastern Europe’s melancholia (think slower Drudkh material) and the folk rhythms and momentum of Primordial. The vocals here are of fairly standard blackened variety, but well-placed, almost playful folky lead guitar lines help to blur the mood of this suite, being especially effective in the second part, “Equinautical.”
The other major song is the perfectly-(and-I-mean-perfectly)-titled “Crush Depth.” Remnants of the blackened guitar tone remain, and the higher vocals are traded in for an extremely deep, almost funereal gurgle, but from the moment the simplistic main riff lands there is little doubt that this is where Rahn wants to deliver the doom. The song works a fairly consistent plodding heft over 10 minutes, but the addition of dissonant rhythm lines, an alternate, more tension-based use of lead guitar and even a touch of prog help to give the track variety. An even more down-tempo finale (a “crushier depth,” if you will), ends the EP at its absolute heaviest.
Raise the Cairn, in its shortened EP format, undoubtedly seems a tad incomplete or even teasing by design, but that can’t stop the quality from coming through. A full album further exploring both sides of the Cairn project would certainly be great to hear, but what this EP does right is get me wanting that, while offering up a sort of easy-to-digest starter kit. Don’t expect the complex genre-crossing of Rahn’s main band, but don’t necessarily expect a drop in quality either. Instead, expect a solid interpretation of the folk-black-doom arts that gets a hearty recommendation for any fans of the above bands and styles.
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