Innovation has not been new in black metal since the 2000s as many bands are breaking the shackle and experimenting with their sound. Grá is one of those bands, hailing from Stockholm, Sweden. The band was formed by the members of Domgard and Cursed 13, and known for their eerie, melodic black metal with a delicate conceptual approach on their music. Grá, prior to the release of their final full length album, is now going for a collaboration with American black metal band Gnosis of the Witch. Unlike the loads of other USBM acts, Gnosis of the Witch has more perplexed and primitive sound. These two shadowy black metal hordes are about to release a split EP between them on 27th of April, 2015. The split EP is going to be released on 7’’ vinyl format on Iron Bonehead Productions.
Grá commands the side A of the 7” with the track ‘Valitus ja Kaipuu’, giving a calm start accompanied by an acoustic intro. The song then breaks into slow, menacing black metal riff. The overall tempo on this side is doom-ish, with a thick guitar tone playing throughout. The rhythm section is outstanding, the best example to this statement could be heard around 2:18. What keeps the music of Grá on this split is the bands ability to procreate gloomy atmosphere with the guitars and the bass incorporated. On this song, the bass guitar is upbeat and can be heard over the drums, which stays pretty simple as it follows through. The blasts can only be heard during a verse, which elucidates the tempo of the song. Heljarmadr from infamous Domgard and Dark Funeral is singing on this side with his mid-pitched shrieks, so anyone familiar with these bands have the idea on his skills. The song is not overproduced and it supports the shivering background really well.
The excellence of Grá is followed on side B with US black metal band Gnosis of the Witch, contributing the track titled Fórn Dauðaorð. Although I was not familiar with the band previously, but it reminds me with the Scandinavian bands (Dissection, Mare) and Icelandic black metal band Svartidaudi. This track is not up to the mark once you have been forwarded from side A. The track is kicks off almost in a similar fashion exhibited by early Swedish bands, however, the starting riff sounds tremendous which is backed throughout by a sharp, melodic tremolo section staring around 0:52. The music at this point seem very European in terms of soundscapes. Yes, the atmosphere Gnosis of the Witch has created on this song is worth mentioning. This could also be the reason Grá chose these Americans to release an album with (apart from the lyrical contents which share similarities). The track has its slow and ambient mood which is attained from 2:30 before breaking into its black metal moments again. Unlike Grá, Gnosis of the Witch has their bass sounds buried amidst the guitar layers. In drumming, there is no abundant blasts or slow paced beats, rather played with sharp variations.
To finish with, the music in ‘Grá/Gnosis of the Witch’ can be described as a balance between the harsh black metal sound and melodious background. There is nothing groundbreaking on this release but the split itself is a solid black metal art for the fans of Scandinavian black metal.
Listen Grá – Valitus ja Kaipuu
Heljarmadr (Vocals, Guitar, Bass)
Dimman (Drums, backing vocals)
Maugrim (Guitars, Bass)
Gnosis of the Witch
Niðafjöll (Vocals, Guitars, Bass)
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Release Date: 27th April, 2015
Reviewed by Somber