Nothing — and I mean nothing — is immune to change. Sometimes it seems bands are ground zero for change, and Spelljammer is no exception. Following their last EP, the band lost half of its lineup and for a short period of time new material was uncertain. Now with a new drummer and a debut full-length, Ancient of Days, upon us, it seems this change was the best thing that could’ve happened to the Swedish trio. Expanding on the fuzzed out doom of their last release and fully eclipsing the stoner rock of their first, the band is stronger and more focused than ever before.
With Niklas Olsson taking over bass duties and new member Jonatan Rimsbo holding down the percussion, the bands rhythm section reaches depths only hinted at previously. “Auns Mountain” from the band’s previous EP, Vol II, was heavy but “Meadow” fully reaches the depths of full-fledged fuzz and extremely low-tuned doom. A long, ominous build is shattered by bass chords and driving riffs as Rimsbo’s drums — low as they are in the mix — plod along and on occasion pierce the ear with crashing cymbals. It’s pummeling, but crucially, it’s also never overbearing.
“From Slumber” sounds as though it was made on Sleep’s Holy Mountain. Psychedelic chords and light drums open up to an expansive feel across the opening minute. Trippy guitar solos become most audible during the track’s heaviest moments, creating an interesting twist to an otherwise massively heavy track.
By this point there is zero doubt the band has triumphed over adversity with the musicianship shown here. That’s not to say their previous works weren’t good, but this is miles above anything they’ve done. And closer “Borlung” triumphantly seals the deal. It’s a culmination of all their efforts, brought front and center into the spotlight. Stoner, doom, fuzz and spaced out guitar jams are all rolled up into one tight, epic length track. The term “monolithic” has been overused in the doom genre, particularly by yours truly, but it fits here perfectly.
Five tracks may not sound like much on paper, particularly when there is a two-minute acoustic intro track. Nonetheless, Spelljammer has packed a lifetime of slow, hazy riffs into a not-quite-40-minute gem. Ancient of Days never feels drawn out or repetitious, but rather full of heft and surprising guitar work around every riff.