Craneium’s Unknown Heights is immediately smoother and more accessible than the band’s previous albums. Their 2016 debut, Explore the Void, was a lo-fi Fuzz experience inspired by genre giants like The Sword and Sleep. Although the album proved the band was sufficient with the Stoner/Fuzz sound, 2018’s The Narrow Line was a tighter affair filled with catchier songs, pleasant hooks, and a more radio-friendly blend of Desert Rock and Fuzz dosed with Psychedelic Rock.
Now, with the recent Unknown Heights, Craneium has refined that sound in The Narrow Line even further. Their latest release is as Alt Rock as it is Desert Rock, relying just as much on meandering Psychedelic interludes as it does Fuzzy choruses—and that should make their latest album appealing to a wider audience than any of their previous work.
Originally formed in the Finnish town of Turku back in 2011, Craneium has worked relentlessly over the last decade—even sharing the stage with knock-out acts like Skraeckoedlan and Mars Red Sky.
- Andreas Kaján – Guitars and Vocals
- Martin Ahlö – Guitars and Vocals
- Jonas Ridberg – Bass
- Joel Kronqvist – Drums
While they were inspired by bands like The Sword and Sleep early on in their tenure, you’re more likely to hear similarities to groups like Sheavy, Kamchatka, and even Pink Floyd in their latest release!
Unknown Heights Album Review
Release Date: October 15, 2021
Track One: A Secret Garden
One of the singles off the album, “A Secret Garden” kicks off with tension before establishing what has become the trademark Craneium sound: a thumping bass over a light riff. Eventually, we also receive our first dose of carefully layered vocals.
We’re a far cry from the band’s origins in Explore the Void, but this is a catchy song nonetheless.
Track Two: Somber Aeons
Featuring a slow, Psychedelic introduction, “Somber Aeons” is the most depressing song on the album. This is a slow track with really only one or two driving emotions, and even the eventual overdrive and keyboard isn’t enough to dramatically alter the mood.
Track Three: Weight to Carry
An argument could have been made for “Weight to Carry” becoming a single over “A Secret Garden.” While it’s likely not as strong as “Shine Again” or “The Devil Drives,” “Weight to Carry” manages to hit a few different emotional beats and seamlessly transitions from Fuzz to Psychedelic to Craneium’s unique Alt Rock experience.
Track Four: Shine Again
Another single leading up to the album launch, “Shine Again” kicks off with a heartbreaking line: “I wish I could walk in the sunlight forever…”
Similar in its songwriting construction to “A Secret Garden,” “Shine Again” relies on ethereal interludes connecting massive, fuzzy choruses with layered vocals—an approach that seems to work well for Craneium.
“Shine Again” eventually breaks away from its template to deliver a fun and unpredictable second half packed with fuzzy lead guitars and vocal tracks.
Track Five: The Devil Drives
The most exciting track on all of Unknown Heights, “The Devil Drives” rides a thumping bass line from explosive chorus to explosive chorus. In many ways, this single shows Craneium at the band’s very best. The songwriting is tight, the solos are impressive, and the songs cuts off well before the five-minute mark, which puts it closer to your traditional rock song length (instead of the 7:22 of a song like “Weight to Carry.”)
Track Six: Unknown Heights
The shimmering, exploratory strings in the title track give the band a little more room to breathe, and they even manage to channel Pink Floyd in a few transcendent moments—moments that have us soaring through the clouds to peek at the night sky above.
Final Score: 7/10
Standout Tracks: “The Devil Drives”
Pros: Unknown Heights really relies on two primary drivers for its sound, both of which are pleasing: pretty, psychedelic interludes and big choruses with fuzzy riffs and layered vocals.
For the most part, it’s a one-two combo that works, especially when the band manages to hit their emotional peaks (like in the crescendo of “Shine Again”).
Although Craneium has stripped out many of their Stoner Rock tendencies within Unknown Heights, they still display moments of swagger. “The Devil Drives” is a killer song with plenty of groove and attitude, and while it doesn’t have the heavy thumping of a Queens of the Stone Age or Hermano single, it does hint back at Craneium’s early roots.
Cons: Craneium rides Unknown Heights through that same songwriting template over and over again until it’s difficult to tell one song apart from the next—and then the last few notes of “Unknown Heights” fade out of existence. In the band’s defense, the switch between the ethereal Psychedelic and the fuzzy choruses is pretty, but they teeter closely to the edge of overkill.
There’s also the issue of emotion. There are moments in their songwriting where it seems there was supposed to be an emotional impact—but the song falls just short of its mark. Part of this may ultimately be a mixing issue. The crescendo on “Shine Again,” for example, relies heavily on guitar flourishes and layered solo tracks, but many of those key moments are pushed backward and difficult to make out, meaning we miss out on the full emotion of “I will shine again!”
The decision on the band’s new sound is intriguing here. As a refinement of their experimentation in The Narrow Line, Uknown Heights is practically a different band than what they were in 2016 with Explore the Void. Such a rapid shift in sound over only a few years is unusual—so unusual that the best comparison I can think of is Colour Haze shifting from Ewige Blumenkraft to, say, In Her Garden, but that was a shift more than 15 years in the making.
Bottom line: Craneium has the writing chops to incorporate a variety of heavy tones into their mix, but they’re currently refining their version of radio-friendly Alt Rock with fuzzy roots, and it seems there is a little more work to be done.