Reviewed: [February 2020]
Released [2020 Purity Through Fire]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
The Swedish duo Greve have obviously studied the big book of old school Scandinavian black metal long and hard. From the incomprehensible logo and curious nom de guerres of the members – vocalist Lik and instrumentalist/vocalist/member of many other bands Swartadauþuz – to the black and white promo pix of the pair festooned in leather and corpse paint as they howl at the moon in some forest and the atmospheric, yet desolate nature of their music, they call to mind a less polished Emperor from the In The Nightside Eclipse era, among many others.
Tinny trem guitars; catewauling vocals – accompanied by some truly demonic gutturals – an eerie wash of synths; mysterious native lyrics; and a steady stampede of drums that drive the songs to epic lengths are served up with reverent detail by the pair on their full-length debut. But while there is an inherent crudeness to the duo’s approach, it is hardly the “necro” minimalism favored by “true” black metal purists. So there’s that.
Amplifying and expanding on the two-song EP Nidingsdåd utav det uråldriga they issued last year – with one, “I Svarta Solens Magi,” being reprised here – Nordarikets Strid features six sprawling tracks and an intro and outro, bearing the exotic titles “Intro” and “Outro.” And despite the militantly unapologetic – and seemingly un-ironic – retro vibe of Greve’s approach, there is a certain charm to the duo’s clamor.
The determined gallop and piercing trill that get things rolling when “Intro” gives way to “Vid Dödens Tröskel” carries over throughout much of the rest of the album’s run. Once these guys hit their stride, they keep after it. And while there is quite a bit of back and forth dynamics, the all-ahead full method – powered by the propulsive tempos from Amberian Dawn drummer Joonas Pykälä-aho, who guests here as “Lima” – seems to work best, ensuring the songs never drag even though they average about six minutes each.
Over the top of it, Greve build quasi-symphonic drama with the ample, yet simply executed synth adornments, especially on the ethereal “Ur Nordiskt Vrede.” There are none of the soaring orchestral sweeps of Nightside Eclipse, etc., but the keys definitely do help embolden what is an otherwise rather Spartan sound. And the two-headed vocal work where the low-register, ursine roar provides a jarring contrast to Lik’s war-eagle shriek, especially on the aforementioned “Vid Dödens Tröskel” and the title track.
Nordarikets Strid is nothing most black metal aficionados haven’t heard countless times before by myriad other bands. But Greve perform it with a certain gusto and purpose that makes it easier to look past the obvious contrivances and cliches.