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People like to joke that black metal bands go out of their way to make shit-quality records, because that’s the only way to be “grim” and “kvlt” and “necro” and whatever-the-fuck-else they want to call it. I can’t say for sure how true that is – though I’ve heard plenty of lo-fi material from black metal artists – but Gravewurm’s raw, minimalist approach seems to promote that belief – sometimes, less is more. That is a plus on their seventh (and supposedly final) full-length, “Blood of the Pentagram”, but this band doesn’t have much else going for them.
Let me get this out of the way first: I can’t find a better way to put this, but the vocals are just irritating. Most black metal bands do feature somewhat higher, raspier vocals, and Gravewurm is no different, but these vocals simply sound like the corpse of a man who died from emphysema, was buried in six feet of sand, then ate his way out of his grave. (I suppose that counts as “necro”.) Dude, seriously…drink a glass of water before you record.
The guitars don’t have much to offer in terms of ingenuity or creativity. Music like this is often very riff-based, and while this does work well in a couple of songs – such as the title track, and “The Sign of a Dark Destiny” (which was actually pretty good, I’ll admit) – many of the riffs are simply stale. They chug on at a slow, doomy pace for the entire length of every single song. Even minimalist bands can have some variety, but not this one.
The drums are programmed. That much is obvious, because they sound too good, too professional, compared to the rest of the instruments. I honestly don’t care whether drums are programmed or not, but they should actually have lowered the quality to match everything else; the drums stand out too much, and they’re less interesting than the riffs.
Overall, this is the kind of stuff that rookie bands record in a basement. But this band has been around for over TWENTY YEARS, spawning releases like rabbits. One would expect more from them by now.
(Originally published in Destructive Music Webzine: http://destructive-music.com/?p=1882)
Let me get this statement out of the way when concerning a band like Gravewurm, if you do not like minimalist or 1st wave black metal then stop reading because you will hate this. For those of us that live for the glory of the old guard Gravewurm is a staple in the genre. Every year or couple years we can count on one band to deliver us a platter of old school riffs and total darkness.......that is Gravewurm!
Gravewurm's sound recalls bands like early Sodom, Hell Hammer, Venom, Possessed, and Bathory. The song writing is done well and is pretty varied for the most part. Most songs only have 3 or 4 riffs and are over in a matter of minutes. I think the longest song is 4 minutes and change, this makes the album not overstay it's welcome and it carries a high replay value.
There is a drum machine used, and the funny thing about Gravewurm is they have a totally raw guitar sound and this booming professional sounding drum machine. It is quite the strange mix the drum machine pounds out simplistic beats that fit well. The vocals are not the traditional black metal rasp, but a gasping almost half screamed half grunted approach. This reminds me a little of Rob Darken's vocals on the newer Graveland releases.
So how do this album compare to other Gravewurm albums? Pretty damn good, this is actually my favorite one. I loved 2010's Black Fire and 2003's Into Battle but this album surpasses them both. Like I stated earlier Gravewurm is not for everyone, but those who do love this band and follow them you simply cannot go wrong with this or any other albums in this band's quality discography.
Standout tracks: Deeper Dungeons, Grave, Necromance, Hordes of Hell, In the Praise of Evil
Gravewurm represent a different side of the black metal coin. Sure, they still travel the same left hand path that many have traveled before, but musically, it is a little more interesting than the normal face-painted genre.
The vocals are raspy and fairly standard as far as black metal goes, but where Gravewurm excels is in the "guitar" category. The music is very riff focused. The guitars on this recording really standout. And the production value, while still raw, is very chunky and hard hitting. It doesn't sound like it was recorded in their parents' basement on a boombox. Not to say it is overproduced, because its not. It is still very raw and grating. . . the way black metal was meant to be. Gravewurm also incorporate a little more tempo shifting than their blackened counterparts. There is almost a doom-ish sludge factor to a few of the songs. "Blood..." is very simplistic, but that is part of their charm. They are paying homage to those black metal warriors who came before them.
If Hellhammer is in your record collection, you will most likely want to dig up "Blood of the Pentagram". It is minimalist, hypnotic black metal.
Taken from http://brutalcontrol.blogspot.com
After 20 years of debauchery, Gravewürm could well be considered an institution of USBM, cranking out a slew of demos in their first decade and then 'going pro' in the ensuing 21st century. Their first four albums were released through Barbarian Wrath, and since that point they've been floating around through a number of imprints. Blood of the Pentagram, adorned in one of the most enduring (if a mite generic) cover images of the year, is their 7th full-length, and it has been snapped up by Hells Headbangers, a move that really makes a lot of sense, since much of the label's roster practices a similar philosophy of no nonsense old school hybrids of extremity.
Likely you've already gathered the impression that Gravewürm create blasphemous black metal, and this is the closest proximity to their sound, though they also incorporate elements of thrash, death and doom. The compositions are extremely simplistic, focusing on a narrow range of riffs and rhythms that attempt to bludgeon you with blasphemy, and almost all of them involve some slower thrashing riff with driving rock drums, over which Zyklon gargles devil's blood with a constipated rasp. I suppose a fair comparison would be Venom, since a lot of the chosen chords seem to reflect the primal, dirty feel of those days, only stretched out a little as if to increase their menace and weight, but in songs like "Deeper Dungeons", there is this glorious, Bathory bombast to the material, though there are no Vikings or Norse gods to be found here. I'd even risk a further parallel to Bolt Thrower, but this is largely cerebral in the way some of the specific guitar riffs roll out as if across a depressive, eternally grim battlefield.
I'm not inherently opposed to such simple tactics in writing, of course, and through the years I've gotten quite absorbed in a number of similar acts, but I felt like there was something lacking here. It might be the energy, which seems sluggish if oppressive. Perhaps the riffs were given just a little too much room to breathe, not offering a standout variety of chords. The band is usually functioning at a laconic, warlike pace as in "Deeper Dungeons" or "Lycanthropic", or a steady, thrashing terminus with "Grave", "Brought Before the Altar" or "Hordes of Hell". Unfortunately, they do not greatly succeed in either category, so it falls to the few tracks that reach an even more drawn out, atmospheric pace to pull the weight, and there are just too few of these. "Necromance" might be fiendishly fundamental, but the spry, daemonic notes create a diamond in fleshy rough, and "Two Chords for Charon" adds in a keyboard for a somber necrotic delight of blackish/doom. Finale "The Sign of a Dark Destiny" also forces a slow nod of approval through the spine, but even this trio of exceptions is not wholly involving.
Blood of the Pentagram is raw and lo-fi, and doesn't dabble in crass pretension, so there are likely to be fans out there that will appreciate it just as is, but I cannot count myself as one of them. The songs seem to meander along with very little thought behind them, and though the simplicity itself is not a negative factor, the lack of atmosphere evoked by the compositions seems a critical obstacle, one I could not hurdle even after numerous listens. There are 12 tracks here, 12 stabs in the dark, but only 3-4 of these even land a scratch, and nothing worthy of stitches. As some preamble or accompaniment to a ritual sacrifice, perhaps the raw accoutrement of the writing would suffice, but I just found Gravewürm all too forgettable this time around.