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Sweden has become my favorite country when it comes to black metal. The reason being is these bands do not compromise the sound they put out. The music is very genuine and rich with atmosphere. Gra is no exception. With their inception in 2010 along with an EP release of “Helfard”, they instantly captured my attention.
The dark production, and old-school sounds combined with traditional riffs and the true black metal approach to their music is something most bands lack these days. But of course, with the EP’s very short length, I was desperate to hear new music. With the release of the 2011 full length album “Gra”, I was given the opportunity…
With the initial opening of “Gra” it is very dark and eerie to say the least. The distant echoes of voices and the disturbing strings and winds provide the exact representation this album will give. The very first riff played is a very huge sigh of relief. The band sets out to once again portray the old-school mentality of black metal and here they have achieved what some these days in a sea of digital bands would say to be impossible. The monotonous and droning guitar riffs are excellent and simple, but simplicity when attacked with the right mindset can provide un-expecting results.
Growling bass tone and pummeling marching drums announce a transition into another attack of blackness. Kraft has one of the best black metal riffs I have heard in a very long time. It gives off the Black n Roll feel, but with much more emphasis on the black. More bands need to take notice of Gra’s music. Heljarmaðr’s vocals are excellent, they give a feeling of despair and agony in his voice as he spews his lyrical poison.
Darkness and black abysmal journeys is the best way to describe this album. The droning monotone riffs are so well executed it is really astonishing. In this new age of the internet, it almost felt as if the old “scary” feeling to black metal has long been buried but Gra said to hell with that and dug it up. They also express very melodic passages and clean guitars paving beautiful transitions of color between the darkness.
The song “Allt Ljus Fortvina” is definitely my favorite song on the album with its opening riff. It is so slow and dragging, and it only continues this energy with variations and slight transitions between riffs that the overall feeling of the song is still intact. Gra are very aware of what they are doing with their music. The sudden assault of blasting fury even keeps the initial feel of the songs opening which in my opinion as a musician myself is not easy to do to change the riff but still keep the same feel of the previous one.
Gra have crafted an album that was very much needed in the black metal scene. Along with the release of Domgard’s amazing “Myrkvidr”, black metal has once again been given a new breath of life into a very stale period of time. The true underground has yet again provided great music from true musicians who say fuck the trends and write what is inside their very souls.
Swedes Grá introduced themselves to us in an emphatic way with that wonderfully epic/nostalgic riff opening their debut EP. One year later, in a rather quiet (in marketing terms) tone, the black metal trio moved on to make the significant step of the first full-length album, in a substantial way, since its running time crawl up to almost 50 minutes.
Things here are fairly simple, yet simplicity when combined with good knowledge of the object proves to be a very wise choice. Here, the Scandinavians avoid any deviation to paths that lead away from the genre’s roots and remain concentrated to the goal of approaching the epic, old-school, Swedish black metal sound. Having as reference points compatriots Dissection or maybe The Black, while using some of Varg’s mid-tempo technique in “spreading” (if I can say so) their riffs, Grá do manage to sound convincing enough.
And this is not a small achievement, when in these soundscapes a thin line divides inspiration from pointless and blatant repetition. So, when we get to the point of witnessing glimpses on grandeur in the album’s final two tracks (“Offerrök” and “Farväl” – “Ett Sista Kapitel” is more of an outro), we can hope that in the near future, even better things will come out of this band.
In the meantime, those of you that missed “Grá” when it came out in the first place, do give part of your time here. If not anything else, at least you will get to hear how a black metal sound production can be deep and vast without submitting to clean, flat sound and boring drum triggers.
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