Solemn, Sacred, Severe
posted on 6/2010 By:
Holy doom metal, Batman!!!
No, seriously, holy doom metal. Religious themes and pious imagery have long been a common subject for metal’s slower species, especially that of the epic subset (“The Samarithan” anyone?), and Sweden’s Griftegård may just use the sounds and words of The Lord like no one else before. Their religiously-themed lyrics, minimalistic but whale-heavy riffs and incredibly emotive vocals combine into what a prog-less While Heaven Wept might just sound like, but it is their attention to detail and singular vision that will truly make them unique among their peers. If this doesn’t already pique the curiosity of your doom senses, know also that debut full-length Solemn, Sacred, Severe is a well-constructed, masterfully produced and utterly fresh take on epic doom’s most revered traits.
The tolling of a bell and a solemn church choir provide the opening notes to “Charles Taze Russell” (named after the early Christian Restorationist minister), instantly setting the ominous and heftily emotional tone which permeates the album. Griftegård’s riffing, which only seems uncalculated, works in tandem with minimalistic drumming that rarely settles into any type of actual rock beat. Each band member pulls their weight for the entire composition, knowing exactly when to keep it simple and when to add an additional touch, such as a chord instead of a single note, an extra bit of bottom end or a unified thump. This unselfish attention to detail thusly provides an ideal backdrop for the remarkable vocals of Thomas Eriksson. His mid-level vibrato and croon may be less operatic than the style has often called for, but it's no less musical and still contains subtle inflections that give wake to an emotional depth rarely heard anywhere in metal, doing perfect justice to the chosen subject matter.
If all of these traits are obvious and pronounced in the first track, then they are freshly-oiled, fine-tuned, and polished to showroom quality with “Punishment & Ordeal.” While the entirety of this multi-layered track reveals Griftegård’s true worth as a musical unit, it is the stunning low-register guitar solo that glues it all together. The solo, which suits the album’s self-sacrificing tone so perfectly as to be chilling, is likely to remain something to look forward to even after many listens. It also fits seamlessly within the song’s many sections, all of which build to a wailing and equally memorable coda.
Due to the two brilliant epics that kick it off, Solemn, Sacred, Severe may initially come across as being a tad front-loaded, but further listens should help the subsequent four tracks to shine in their own right. “The Mire” plods with heavy precision and “Drunk with Wormwood” gives the album a piano-driven and eerie finale, but the beautiful “Noah’s Hands” is possibly the second half’s finest detail. This organ-laden, choir-voiced cathedral piece does far more than assist the album’s pace; it shows the full depth of Griftegård’s musical dedication to their holy philosophy, and solidifies Solemn, Sacred, Severe as the kind of album that doom fans would rejoice about if doom fans were the kind of people to rejoice. Instead, let them feign mild excitement over what Griftegård has provided with their debut, which is quite a lot.
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