Reviewed: November 2018
Released: 2018 – Dark Descent Records
The Grand Manifestation is the Swedish band Third Storm‘s first full length album.
Preceded in 2015 by an E.P. called Taritiya Me (also released on Dark Descent records), I am surprised to learn that the origins of the band actually go back as far as 1986, when, still in his teens, founding member Heval Bozarslan channelled his passion for extreme metal into an early version of Third Storm. They gigged around their home town of Uppsala and recorded a couple of demos before they eventually split in 1988.
In more recent times, Bozarslan has “awakened this beast once again” and assembled a completely new line up – one that has retained the spirit of the 80’s but been enhanced by years of experience and improving musicianship. The band proudly claim that they have reached a new level of excellency and state that this 2018 version of the band is how they were supposed to sound 30 years ago!
That being the case, it is immediately apparent that Third Storm had always aspired to be a completely savage band. The first song on the album, Prima Mobilae comes tearing out of the speakers with absolutely no warning. It’s a full throttled attack, built on a foundation of machine gun drumming. The guitars match the ferocity and provide a suitably pugnacious backdrop to the snarling vocals. It’s a song that is propelled along on a dark, pagan melody, with tumbling drum fills building towards a crashing, slow dirge, where we experience a measured and melodic guitar solo before being thrust back into a final grim blast.
Indeed, much of the album is presented as a drilling frenzy of tremolo riffing and blast beats – As The Stars Watched The Birth Of Eternity slams in at such a level of barbarity, it almost sounds indistinguishable from the song before it – ultimately it alternates between a raging clatter and majestic half-time stomp – which, while enjoyable and delivered with enthusiastic vigour, may have benefited from a slightly shorter arrangement. Better to punch hard and fast than to dwell on the point – in this instance, I find the song’s impact to be slightly lost in the repetition.
The Third Thought From The Sun represents a dramatic gear change, slowing the tempo to a credible Sabbath-esque doom that churns along, crushing skulls, sounding ominous and weighty before eventually whipping itself into an At The Gates styles charge that takes us up to the songs conclusion and an inspired choral interlude that serves as a foreboding pause in the maelstrom.
For all of its intensity, The Grand Manifestation‘s strengths seem to lie in the moments when it offers something a bit more than raw brutality. A song like Through The Eyes Of The Omnipresent is relentless and viciously feral throughout, but I’m also finding Third Storm at their most blackened to lack any truly memorable moments. Playing at velocity, they seem to rely on a limited set of ideas that although skilful and flawlessly performed, ultimately rattle along without really making an impact.
As a clear contrast to this, Forgotten Deity is the album’s real highlight and demonstrates that the band can write a truly anthemic song that uses contrast and dynamics to create something that will continue to reward on repeat listens. This song features a beautifully picked acoustic intro before it launches into something akin to classic era thrash that still retains its black metal hallmarks. The guitar playing shines and makes use of a mournful refrain that becomes a strong hook – there is also some melodic soloing that brings a brief bluesy feel to the album. For me, this represents the band at the height of their song-writing. They are drawing from several influences and weaving them together into something that is no less heavy but has a much more enduring appeal.
This melodic flair comes out again on the solos for Gorakaathuar, which is another thrashing whirlwind of a song, notable for the aforementioned six string work.
Similarly, the album’s final track, In Wrath Enshrouded is an aggressive barrage of riffs that gives the listener one final blackened thrash metal attack that tantalises us with some interesting guitar parts (at 02:20) that I wish they had made more of, but the focus here is clearly on maintaining the brutality for the album’s heavy metal climax.
The Grand Manifestation has been a tricky album to review. Overall it does a lot very well. The musicianship is of a high standard – Alvaro Svanerö‘s drumming in particular should be singled out for its intensity across the duration of the record. It clearly pushes the rest of the band to keep up with the savagery – and indeed, this is an energetic and credible piece of work – however, some of the more intense passages can be repetitive.
I think if Third Storm developed the melodic elements hinted at on this record, they may yet have a classic blackened heavy metal album in them. I think of the ways a band like Tribulation really pulled on their proggier influences and used them to give their music a wider dynamic. – This album gets a recommendation from me, if only to put them on your radar and see where they end up. I believe Third Storm are a band who have proved their place with The Grand Manifestation – but their best work is possibly still ahead of them.