The Wandering Midget
From the Meadows of Opium Dreams
Trotting out with what I can only assume is a moniker inspired by some sort of ode to the delightful MG automobile of the 60s/70s ala "Herbie Goes Bananas", Finland's The Wandering Midget returns once again with album number two in their assemblage of traditional doom epics in the form of From the Meadows of Opium Dreams. Despite the "let's get Cheech & Chong up in this bong"-styled title and cover artwork, this record delivers a choice example of the clean and beautifully primal style handily forged by fellow countrymen Spiritus Mortis and Reverend Bizarre that's devoid of unnecessary "ball-tripping" effects. The formula is deceptively simple: three dudes belting out drums, bass and a wall of riffs & leads that slowly gallop alongside a perfectly suitable none-too operatic clean set of pipes.
The Rev. B. comparisons are nothing new - it's actually difficult to find anything out there in 'zineland that doesn't reference them cats with regard to these cats in one way or another - but The Wandering Midget has done a fine job of slowly stepping into an independent voice over the course of their now seven years of existence. Vocalist/guitarist Samuel Wormius (also of up-and-comers Serpent Warning, and current bassist for Horna) still occasionally bears a striking resemblance to Sami Witchfinder, especially when he goes for the deeper croons, but a good bit of the material here finds him mixing in a little more snarl that serves well to further cleave the two. Additionally, TWM mostly opts out of the more (insane) tongue-in-cheek methods employed by the late Rev in favor of fortifying the schlepping doom with a healthy shot of "Conan on The Wheel of Pain"-styled oldschool, fists in the air heavy metal, particularly with regard to Samuel's outstanding, and often shredding lead-play. Opener (and shortest cut by a long shot) "Prince of Fire" hits right from the gate with burly leather gauntlets in precisely such a manner, and the lion share of the 12-minute "She Wolf" flashes a similar disposition. (I love the TG Warrior "OOH!" and the walloping riff that accompanies it around 5:45.)
The rest of the fare - the remaining 37-minutes divided into TWO other songs - mixes in a few other sleeved spells to further expand the range. Both cuts lean on some lovely little mellow twists, but "Temples in the Sky" (20:12) asserts more of a satisfyingly defeated air (sans soppiness), and the closing "Follow the Forest Lights" (17:31) infuses some satisfyingly proggy-but-toasted burnout rock that crowns during the closing 6-minutes.
The biggest issue will likely surface when trying to track this sucker down, as the Eyes Like Snow offshoot of the venerable Northern Silence Productions hasn't exactly proven itself to be the most adept at ensuring their releases are properly spread across all hemispheres. Still, it'll be well worth the hunt if you count yourself a fan of traditional doom that eschews the current trend of folding sludge or extraneous lava-lampooning into the equation. Had From the Meadows of Opium Dreams found its way into my lap last year, it surely would've cracked my top twenty. Troo duem over the world!