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Previous to the official release of ‘Gråtoner’, there were three tracks floating around the underground which claimed to be the material that was going to be present on this particular EP. However, it was only until a later date that we, the audience, learned that the material floating around was merely rehearsal ideas for the penultimate two tracks that have officially found there way on to the ‘Gråtoner’ piece and have truly transformed this in to one of the ultimate depressive black metal must-listens of the century. Undeniably, the rehearsal which managed to find there way out into the world were good, but these two much improved tracks make this official version of ‘Gråtoner’ a stunning hit which is almost flawless in it’s approach to the world of DSBM.
Hypothermia, a Swedish one man act, are by now a well established band due to the hard work and persistence of the front man, Kim Carlsson, who has produced some of the better and more influential depressive black metal material since the day the Earth discovered acts like Burzum, Forgotten Woods and Strid. In a sub-genre riddled with plagiarised forms of the scene of yesteryear and various other below par ‘performers’ who contribute nothing to the sound of this sometimes unbearable scene, other than bad press of course, Hypothermia continue to claw to the surface, pinpointing at each turn why it was that we tuned in to depressive black metal to begin with. ‘Gråtoner’ is, bar perhaps ‘Köld’, the most outstanding piece that Carlsson has managed to muster up from his dark and depressed soul.
The epitome of this EP is dank, dark and eerie. If it were not, it would not have been so well produced and structure. This EP offers us, the audience, a semblance of depression in the form of two very well established songs that consist of the highest song writing. The central talking point to this EP is, undoubtedly, the way it can conjure beauty from the bleakest of soundscapes. The progressionist nature of the songs, particularly in terms of the performance on lead guitar, is outstanding. Carlsson, by now, is an established musician of the highest order and understand what it takes to make a good depressive black metal offering, which is what this is. The musicianship, like the song writing and structure to the songs, is fabulous. The way in which Carlsson manages to almost flawlessly layer the distinctive sounds of dark depression conjure similar emotions within the listener, which makes this effort more appealing in the long run, due to the long nature of the songs on offer.
The emotional beauty of this EP is second to only ‘Köld’ which, in a similar fashion, managed to create a reflective piece of art. The focal point, as always, is the guitars. The essence of this dangerous and darkly submissive beast is in the guitars. The melodic nature of the soundscapes is oddly intriguing. Depressive black metal usually relies on heavy amounts of distortion to depict it’s themes, but ‘Gråtoner’ does not. The guitars are mostly clean, depicting the lyrical themes through an exciting and fresh sound which this much ridiculed sub-genre isn’t used to. The vocals, which do consist of typical Kim-esque rasps are sparse, but powerful. The infrequent use of vocals enhances the entrancing melodies which the clean guitars, whilst conjure nothing but sombre images, are the central focus of. Carlsson’s ability to be able to fuse distorted vocals with clean guitars and often other clean instrumentation is fantastic.
‘Gråtoner’ uses a method of clean instrumentation for long periods, inspired percussion which often drives forward the bleak and despairing soundscapes and his typically epic use of traditional depressive black metal vocals. Whilst, of course, there is distortion applied to the guitars on occasions, it’s the clean instrumentation that really drives the saddened feel to the music. The rather clichéd aggressive patterns are then, in turn, taken by the hand of the distortion which takes full control in exceeding the expectations of the impartial audience. The feature of double bass, which dominates much of black metal’s records, isn’t as dominant on this piece. As aforementioned, the elements of instrumentation on this record are submissive, which gives the impression that they are distant and withdrawn, but never in an emotional context, which offers a new look into a decaying sub-genre. Highly recommended.
Gråtoner, Hypothermia's latest EP, is their best material since the infamous Lead Yourself to Failure split with Durthang, it's undoubtedly better than that. Composition wise this will blow your mind. They have toned down the production, which works much better for the band, Rakbladsvalsen-esque production is good, by all means, but a lo-fi production works marvels for this band, and many bands in the genre. The execution of the compositions themselves is also a major step up, within this music there's many subtle techniques, vibratos, bends, drop offs, chord progression (yes, it's there), the fact that the acoustic isn't there to be so much heard as felt. All of this contributes to the atmosphere within these two songs.
Hypothermia, throughout their career have put out outstanding releases, one after another, in my eyes this band has done absolutely no wrong. It's incredible that a band that puts out so many releases per year is this great. Also, each release is completely different than the last; they change their sound on every release, they don't have their 'own sound' per se, but they have this atmosphere which is present on each release. Although their music goes through major changes in each release, Kim's one of a kind vocals are always there, they are something the listen can hold on to, and just an overall feeling of 'home' with each release, making sure the listener knows that it is Hypothermia.
The two lengthy songs, Gråtoner I & II and Gråtoner Repression are pretty evenly split at twenty-three and twenty-six minutes in length, adding up to just under an hour, of some of the most hopeless tunes you will experience. The tracks are almost as authentic as you can get without seeing the band live, the whole album sounds as if it's live, the guitars surround you, the drums pound you and the vocals send shivers throughout your body.
The instrumentation almost comes as a shock, the drums are greatly improved, while not 'technical', the drummer knows what they're doing, simple yet well though out beats on this release, unlike many Hypothermia releases which are somewhat simple and overly repetitive. Even though simple and repetitive definitely works for Hypothermia, the drums on this release add extra depth to the song.
All in all, an absolute must for all Hypothermia and DSBM fans. It's amazing from what Hypothermia has become, progressing with every release. Five years after the first breath of life, Saphien Irretable, Hypothermia produced this, it's truely incredible. This album will separate the sheep from the real fans of the genre, there's nothing catchy, or pretty about this album; this is metal, this is ugly, this is depresisve and it fucking hurts. Simply the best album I have ever heard.