posted on 11/2011 By:
France’s Griffar has a clear case of geographical confusion. Upon first listen (and third, and tenth, etc.), the brand of blackened bombast brandished on full length debut Monastery appears to be lifted right out of Sweden in the late 90s (which is fitting seeing as the band first formed in 1997). While it is quite competent and enjoyable for much of its duration, it lacks the flair and extra-something-special to really make it necessary in a world that already includes Storm of the Light’s Bane.
For seasoned melo-black fans, Monastery should quickly endear with its attack – that which takes the Dissection / Naglfar sound and amps up both the blasting and thrash sides, offering a heavier take on the classic formula. Unfortunately, for every facet of this album that engages, another frustrates. For example, the band’s instrumental talents are quite adept for the style, and the vocal attack is particularly nice, but predictable riff patterns and predominantly through-the-motions soloing (sounds like a warm-up exercise in “My Wolf Legacy”) harm the album’s human element.
The album’s structure – 52 minutes with very little variety – is also an issue, as is the heavily bookended track order. Opener “Blessing In Lava” and closing counterpart “Last World” are both admirable examples of the style, taking on longer structures and more epic tones. In addition second track “Monastery” and second-to-last “Rebirth” are also highlights, the latter of which succeeds in spite of being a complete carbon copy of the more evocative Dissection work. However, much of the middle meanders with material that is an all-too familiar imitation of something which is already all-too familiar (hammer-on-pull-off work in “Relentless Infamy” is very close to that in the opener) or quite simply isn’t particularly interesting (the over-blasted Immortal attempt “Tale of the Navigator”).
To be fair, even the weaker material herein is more than merely listenable, but sometimes we just have to be honest with ourselves about whether an album will find permanent spots in our rotation over time. Is Monastery a capable rendition of melodic and thrash-infused black metal? Sure, but am I likely to ever listen to it again? Probably not. Griffar offers a respectable but ultimately unnecessary foray into a style that just can’t get over the hump when it comes to matching its originators. If the idea of a slightly more cutthroat (but less inspired) version of Dissection appeals to you, then give the gents in Griffar a listen, but be warned that it is merely a tease that will quickly drive you back into the masters’ arms.
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