Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pre-Release Review: Grethor, "Cloaked In Decay"

GRETHOR - Cloaked In Decay
"Cloaked In Decay"

- 8 out of 10

Grethor has been one of our featured bands since we began, and the wait for their new EP is finally almost over.

Formed in 2007, Grethor started out playing black metal in the same vein as Bathory and Venom. As lineups changed throughout the years, so too did their musical direction; transitioning from raw, primitive black metal, to melodic black metal, to a hybridization of black and death metal. Now, in 2015, Grethor is about to unleash their newest offering, “Cloaked in Decay”, on April 21st.

This five track EP is Grethor's most diverse and compelling work yet, intertwining their black/death metal sound with elements of doom and melody. “Cloaked in Decay”was mixed by Simon Callahan and mastered by Colin Marston, with artwork done by Niklas Sundin (of Dark Tranquility fame).

Here below, I will attempt to paint you a picture of this ambitious new album before it hits the unsuspecting public... for blackened, melodic heaviness of this caliber requires at least some measure of preparation!

You can also preview the a few tracks for yourself at the bottom of the page - let us know what you think in the comments. "Cloaked In Decay" is also currently available for pre-order and can be bought at this location following its release on 2/10. If you like it, buy it, and don't forget to keep an eye on the calendar for any and all opportunities coming up to see them live.

Track 1 - "Wraith"

The album gets of to an exceptionally evil beginning. You can hear, feel, even taste the trvest of black metal style mixed with evil elements of prog early on. The haphazard discordance seems to work in its own disharmony... it doesn't sound quite right, but it doesn't sound wrong either. I admit at a few points in this I found myself feeling a bit bombarded with what seems like a lot going on all at one time, but perhaps that is what they were going for - pure, unbridled anarchy. At around the 2:14 mark they get into a nice, dark, descending riff before breaking off into another chaotic (but slightly easier to follow) instrumental interlude. 3:30 in begins your blackened downward spiral into hell, before flailing into riffage worthy of the most brutal circle pit to accompany the anguished sounds of these lords of misrule.

Track 2 - "Misery of Ignorance"

Really dug the opening to this one. The guitars and bass no doubt enhanced the unique yet familiar brand of blackened deathyness, but both the drums and the vocals were extraordinarily phenomenal right from the start and stayed that way pretty consistently throughout the whole track. Think At The Gates meets Emperor, with hints of Behemoth and even a touch of early Dimmu thrown in for good measure. I have to say though, I think as far as the vocals go, I am definitely a bigger fan of how Marcus Lawrence just eviscerates with those powerful, guttural lows than when he goes in for a bit higher of a pitch. He has an incredible ability to fluctuate his pitch in a manner very similar to the way that Dani from Cradle of Filth does, and it generally goes along rather well with the ebbs and flows of the music. Perhaps it's just more of a personal taste for me, but I feel the passion being driven a hundred times harder and heavier when he hits those low growls as opposed to the higher ones. It's akin to what a demon escaped from Hades might sound like, and that's how you know you're listening to some quality stuff. At any rate, they make this track work, and work well. At around 2:00 they take us back round for another loop before sliding effortlessly into a gloriously deathy melodic bit that hearkens me back to the sounds of Insomnium. It doesn't last long, however, and before you know it you are ushered back into their signature style of ruthlessly heavy blackness. This one has definitely made it onto my list of favorite tracks!

Track 3 - "Somnia Malum Infinitum"

Here we have a lovely gloomy, doomy beginning; one that comes together like several chords of yarn being spun onto a single spool, slowly and methodically. At 42 seconds, though, you can expect a right good kick in the arse down a dirty, dingy pit of hellish delights. There are so many wonderful harmonies hidden throughout this album so far, although the distortion level makes it a bit hard to hear them all. Then again, it wouldn't be "kvlt" if it wasn't heavily distorted, would it? Perhaps, like many a filmmaker and video game creator, they have dropped in these harmonies like Easter eggs... making it not so easy to notice at a passing glance and only revealing themselves when the listener really listens, so keep your ears wide open for some really creative (and well-concealed) melodic gifts strewn among these wondrous unholy resonations from the abyss. At about 2:50, prepare to be blown the fuck away by Anthony Rouse's unbelievably insane drumming and some seriously sadistic shredding from guitarists Mike Lewis and Brian Frost from there til the end of the track.

Track 4 - "Hemispheres Decaying"

This track goes from zero to gallop in two seconds. How Anthony can keep rhythm that fast is bewildering to me. The quaking quintet opts for that oddly-harmonious disharmony set to minor chords, and either they had a very famous guest vocalist or Marcus Lawrence has somehow successfully channeled Shagrath through those powerhouse pipes, because he captures that sound to utter perfection here without any assistance or distortion (that I'm aware of, at least)... and I'm pretty sure Shagrath has to do something unnatural to achieve that same effect. After about a minute, they start rallying up the chaos factor again to pave the way for a circular galloping of drums at 1:15 that could signal only one thing - CIRCLE PIT!! Back into the fray you are thrown at 1:30, and after a short roller coaster ride of ups and downs, fasts and slows, they start integrating all sorts of elements for the last half of the track. It's hard to keep on top of it all, but it effectively draws you into dark, dank, demonic world they've created - complete with the feelings of pandemonium, ferocity, ambivalence and despair that would go along with it. If you're a fan of black metal, that last sentence should be getting you pretty excited for this release.

Track 5 - "Organic Tomb"

It begins with a feeling like youre muddling through a dark, shallow pond, rising above the water to the surface whereupon you discover harmonious beauty the way black metal sees it - in harmonies that you'd never expect, in a wonderfully morose yet bittersweet cascade of sorrowful notes flowing continuously out of every element of the band like ripples from a splash. It's beautiful in its own way. If ever a black metal song could be described as beautiful, this one would be it. At points, the vocals feel a bit more distant here than in other tracks off the album, but it works well alongside the overall sound. The riffs they start breaking into at about 3:30 are just deliciously evil, and I mean deliciously. They start to slide back into doom territory around 4:20 - after all, you need a bit of a reprieve after all those heaping helpings of heavy. 5:07 and beyond brings a great batch of slower riffs that are just fucking delightful before the track comes to an eerie close.

Track 6 - "Monody of Artemis" (Bonus Track)

This track - aside from getting bonus points for sharing part of its namesake with my youngest kitty (who, as you may have guessed, is named Artemis) - sounds a bit more easily accessible to those who aren't particularly fond of being too heavy on the blackened side. You can almost get a classic metal feel at around the minute mark with a Maiden-esque solo, and that feeling carries on to about the halfway point in the song before it crosses the threshold back into more doom/death territory. At about three minutes in, they try their hand at clean vocals. I can't tell if it's Marcus one of the musicians they have collaborated with on this EP (both Bill Calomiris of Gloom and Lord H of Reticle/Cammo Shorts contributed to the release) but they are very ominous and ghost-like. It's the perfect prequel to the melodic ending of the track that fades off simply and silently back into the dissonance from whence we began.

Overall, this album is completely solid and any fans of bleak, inventive, chaotic and fucking heavy black, death, doom or extreme metal are going to seriously enjoy this. I'm giving it an 8 out of 10 for having some seriously outstanding displays of musicianship and incredible depth, not to mention Grethor's ability to harness the soul of despondency in an almost theatrical sense - no doubt in some small part due to the acting chops of their vocalist, Marcus, and to the passion with which Anthony, Nick, Mike and Brian ply their crafts and instruments. These gentlemen love metal, and you can hear evidence of that throughout this EP and in person at their live shows.

"Cloaked In Decay" will be released April 21st, 2015 as a jewel case CD, with lyrics and color artwork, and for digital download on various online retailers including our webshop, Bandcamp, iTunes, and Spotify. The EP takes both traditional and avant-garde black metal and fuses it with a chaotic barrage of dark death metal riffs, laced with hooks and grooves. This five track EP offers Grethor’s most diverse, compelling release yet, complete with crushing doom riffs, high-octane blasting and bleak melodic passages.

The EP's lyrics are inspired by the 1895 novel “The King in Yellow” by Robert W. Chambers: a series of short stories, of which four of them are about the eponymous forbidden play that spurs despair and insanity to those who read it. “Cloaked In Decay” also warns of the ills of religion, man’s existential crises and cosmic horror.

“I find that fear is possibly the most harmful of human traits," said Grethor vocalist Marcus Lawrence. "It is, however, a great source of material, and it is through art we confront it. It is our only salvation.”

With “Cloaked In Decay”, Grethor is aiming beyond the confines of its genre to create music that is as heavy as it is provocative; music that will stay with you as much as assault the senses. Artwork for this EP was created by Niklas Sundin. Best known as the guitarist of melodic death metal band Dark Tranquility, Sundin is also a renowned illustrator and graphic designer.

Grethor recorded “Cloaked In Decay” between August 2014 and February 2015 at Anthony Rouse’s home studio in Ashburn, VA; Simon Callahan’s studio in Bethesda, Md; and Lady of Noise Studios in Frederick, Md. Simon Callahan (Midnight Eye, Permafrost) engineered and mixed the album, with additional engineering by Joseph Mitra and mastering by Colin Marston (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia, Krallice) at The Thousand Caves studios in Queens, N.Y.

In addition to these five tracks, a re-recording of "Monody for Artemis" will be available on Bandcamp for digital download.

On top of all that, the EP will feature guest appearances by Lord H. (Reticle, Cammo Shorts) and Bill Calomiris (Gloom, Loculus).

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