Debut releases from independent, solo artists are generally hit or miss; many, showing some small glimmers of promise, inevitably fail to deliver completely due to poor production, lack of originality, or other factors associated with inexperience. Luckily for us, Chicago-based musician Samu Rahn's songwriting ability and broad, creative vision have allowed him to produce a top-notch debut EP. "Raise the Cairn" is, with few exceptions, thoughtful, polished, and thoroughly enjoyable to listen to.
Although "Raise the Cairn" is a five-track EP, it essentially consists of three main tracks plus two acoustic interludes. Overall, the songs have a blackened, pagan feel to them; although it is often difficult to place certain bands within a subgenre, Cairn are definitely in the same general neighborhood as acts like Primordial, Enslaved, and Agalloch. Rahn seamlessly blends raw, crushing (and at times, very complex) riffage with subtly underlying folk melodies and motifs as effectively as any of the aforementioned veteran bands.
"Magnapinna Rex" parts I and II account for two of the three principal songs on "Raise the Cairn", and these two tracks are the EP's primary driving force when it comes to infusing and expressing the musical and emotional elements that Rahn has designed to share with us. The lead guitar work is very melodic, yet not catchy. Guest Mike Gleason handles the majority of the vocals here, delivering a forceful mid-to-high register growl; with pipes like that this individual should rightfully be fronting a famous, world-class extreme metal band.
"Crush Depth", the EP's final track, goes for a doomier, sludgier sound, and here Rahn's lower growls are at the forefront. While this song lacks the melody of the previous two, it has an identity of its own; indeed, "crushing" is by far the best adjective to describe the sheer power of "Crush Depth". Here Cairn channel Swallow the Sun more so than Enslaved; Rahn's success with this track juxtaposed against the other two speak to his diverse songwriting ability. "Raise the Cairn" is sure to please almost every extreme metal fan with an open mind.
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