Thursday, 16 August 2012

Review: Griftegård : Solemn • Sacred • Severe - Touch me, Priestly ! 90%

In the dark shadows of Sweden, Griftegård appears will all its despair and they are truly mesmerising. I can't yell or scream my love for these guys enough, their brand of doom is perfect and refined. If I had to choose another heir to Reverend Bizarre's immense legacy, this band would be my choice alongside Lord Vicar (they have a split together too). Their music, like their peers mentionned ahead is lyrical and profound doom metal. Depression, bitterness and sadness are all common themes in Solemn • Sacred • Severe but it's not some kind of "My girlfriend left and I'm crying because I'm a redhead" stuff. It's dark and mysterious, but at the same time there's some hints of romanticism. It feels like the cold moonlight's embrace on a cemetery, hey, but that's the meaning of the Swedish word "Griftegård" ! Let these sad Vikings take you on their drakkar, direction : despair !

Signed on Germany's Ván Records, a high quality label and
having Ola Blomkvist (co-founder of I Hate Records) in their rank, this band doesn't disappoint. What we can hear in here is a very vivid and organic doom with an emphasis on atmosphere, something that can recall The Wounded Kings. It's mythologic and for a while, you're totally under their spell. The main characteristic of this band in my opinion is the vocal harmonies of Thomas Eriksson (formerly of Bokor, a prog metal band). There's even some choirs to add to the religious feel throughout the release, something we can clearly hear along with the organ in "Noah's Hands", the fourth track. The vocals are helping to create and maintain the deep slow pace of the record, there's no fast paced to be found here, the fastest it can be is probably the main riff of The Mire, it's heavy and riff driven, one of the only songs structured like this.

They're not a band with a focus on bludgeoning riff. A good comparaison would be While Heaven Wept's first 2 albums, especially the debut Sorrow of the Angels. The album starts with its two longest tracks "Charles Taze Russell" (who's an important religious figure of the 20th century...) and "Punishment & Ordeal", both around 10 mins. These two songs are really giving the pace to this album. The instrumentation is subtle, not overstated, there's no blistering or fuzzy leads like in Saint Vitus. It's plain, unprocessed emotion compressed into music. There's also cool piano & organ parts such as the beginning of the last track, it's evocating some darker doom bands, almost in a funeral doom kind of way. Don't expect hard rocking doom like Age of Taurus or other modern doom revivalists, it's sloooooooow and it's without any compromises. Imagine the emotions and pace of Reverend Bizarre mixed with slowed down Candlemass, that's approximately what Griftegård is playing.

I can't say that I'm a fan of religious lyrics in general, but the lyrics of Blomkvist are really damn well written. Fortunately, they're not as preachy as Place of Skulls but it's beyond doubt their main lyrical theme, read this from "Drunk with Wormwood" :

 "Jesus dies inside my heart
Judas lingers on
All my values broken down
In a bitter frown"

We can't deny the poetic approach, it's classy and well done, just not my preference as far as traditional doom is concerned, still, it's nothing that can make an album mediocre for me. I like the imagery and the mythic feel of christianity in music, after all, its history is very bloody, isn't it? I salute the dedication to a theme even though I disagree with it, hell, that's at least as ridiculous than overtly believing in Satan. Using religion as a lyrical vehicle fits the dark prose and approach of these gentlemen. Personally, I usually prefer the over the top silliness of Albert Witchfinder or the fantasy based lyrics of The Gates of Slumber to these priestly lyrics.

It doesn't really matter to me in the end, the music is perfect. The 6 songs of this 46 minutes albums are all amazing, there's no fillers to be found, it's all graceful and higher tier doom. The production is great and the songwriting is much better than a similar band like Warning. Judging by their recent split release, this band has enormous potential, they'll be one of Europe's doom leaders in some years, believe me. If you're into slow and very emotionnal doom, they are highly recommended. Praise Satan, praise Jesus, praise who you want, it doesn't matter in the end because the goods are delivered and they are blessed by holy water. 

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