Reviewed: May 2018
Released: 2018, www.carnalrecords.com/
Reviewer: Owen Thompson
One word springs to mind when describing Grá: class. They are from a long line of Swedish BM heavyweights and have a considerable pedigree, boasting a former member of Dark Funeral. They pay tribute to the greats of the past but add their own distinct edge to the BM aesthetic. The result is positively thrilling.
The frigid and off-kilter “Till Sörjerskorna” opens proceedings. A mid-paced racket, it is very much on the nose and provides a potent beginning; portents of things to come. “King of Decay” is more aggressive and violent, hurtling headlong to destinations unknown. The haunting intro of “Hveðrungs Mær” is akin to a Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack bleeding delightfully into a melodic Black metal triumph. It is slow in tempo but is full of necrotic energy. It serves as something of an hors-d’oeuvre for “Krig”. Gigantic in scope, it is large in the way you might expect the universe to be. The judicious use of keyboards offer up a succinct air of atmosphere and gravitas backing riff after sublime riff.
“Gjallarhorn” begins in progressive fashion which continues beguilingly in the face of some white hot aggression. I hesitate to use the term, but this is an instant classic. High standards are maintained with “Dead Old Eyes”. A gleefully vicious counterpoint to the previous track, it is just the right style to play after two consecutive whimsically epic songs. It retains an immense sense but is possessed of a more spiteful and gnarly edge. The addition of a few superb old school heavy metal riffs certainly doesn’t hurt either. The evocative and unsettling “The Devil’s Tribe” is up next. Its unusual rhythmic structure explodes into an eddy of thrashy speed before returning to a more ethereal approach. The album is concluded with the old school BM workout of the title track; another fine example of a band knowing just what is required to follow on. A fine way to end a breathtaking album.
The band can feel rightfully proud of what they have accomplished here. There is so much to like, from the killer guitar tone (which is just the right side of kvlt) to the callous vocals (which often have an almost psychedelic effect on them). Each and every track is paced perfectly and as a result, “Väsen” is an album that places Grá up amongst the greats of the genre.