From an American standpoint, a lot of what riff-rocking Danish trio Pet the Preacher get up to on their second album and Napalm Records debut, The Cave and the Sunlight, will probably seem familiar. On the 11-track/51-minute offering, the Copenhagen-based three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Christian Hede Madsen, bassist/backing vocalist Torben Wæver Pedersen and drummer Christian Von Larsen proffer a brash, bruiser sort of heavy rock, indebted at times directly to Pepper Keenan-era C.O.C., as on “Remains,” but elsewhere deriving an emotional push that to US ears, could sound just as easily culled from commercial hard rock, as on “Marching Earth Pt. 2″ and the penultimate “I’m Not Gonna.” A modern clarity and fullness of production backs that read, though I think ultimately it’s a skewed interpretation. In context of geography, Pet the Preacher offer a split from Europe’s current heavy psych and classic rock proliferation — if there’s one thing The Cave and the Sunlight doesn’t sound like, it’s Graveyard — and whereas in the UK, that alternative seems to come either in vicious sludge or Orange Goblin-inspired booziness, the Danes have taken a different direction, based more on songwriting than tonal impact but still landing plenty heavy when they choose to do so, the initial rush of “Let Your Dragon Fly” following the blown-out bluesy intro “The Cave” and not quite setting up everything the album has to offer, but at least give it a riotous beginning and letting listeners know that in addition to dragons, there be stoner riffs ahead.
We never quite make it from “The Cave” to “the sunlight,” but I suppose the ending of the eight-and-a-half-minute closer and longest track “The Web” offers some brightness of mood compared to Pet the Preacher‘s more downtrodden moments. Between the two, songs play out with varied personalities but consistency of tone and overall feel, and while with an album that tops 50 minutes that can make a song like “The Pig and the Haunted” or even the longer “What Now” (7:45) — the standout lines from which are “What now?/Fuck it” — seem to have to work harder to justify their inclusion, The Cave and the Sunlight gets there sooner or later in each case. Earlier pieces like the drum-led “Kamikaze Night,” which plays tense tom-work against payoff riffing and Madsen‘s throaty, low-in-the-mouth vocal style, and subsequent “Remains,” which follows furthering the hints of slide guitar of the prior track with a verse that seems to singularly call back to C.O.C.‘s 1996 landmark, Wiseblood (not a complaint), have it somewhat easier in distinguishing themselves, resulting in an overarching linear feel for The Cave and the Sunlight — a CD structure that, like the band’s sound itself, runs somewhat counter to trend. Neither their 2012 debut, The Banjo, nor subsequent 2013 compilation, Papa Zen and Meet the Creature (Papa Zen being new or at least unreleased material and Meet the Creature being their 2011 debut EP), stretched beyond the bounds of vinyl-readiness in terms of timing, and here, the two chapters of “Marching Earth Pt. 1″ and “Marching Earth Pt. 2″ are arranged right in the middle, as if to underscore the trio’s intent toward a classic CD flow.