Featuring the talents of none other than Mayhem crooner Attila Csihar and Sunn O))) mainman Stephen O Malley, Gravetemple’s latest release Impassable Fears is an engrossing slice of oddity.
It’s difficult to put into words exactly what Gravetemple’s sound really is on the release – instead, it’s far easier to put into words what it evokes. Written from a shamanistic perspective, the record’s aim is to challenge our perceptions through musical trance, and the album’s noise-ridden psychedelia does what it sets out to do incredibly well. Through the walls of droning guitars, off-kilter drum beats, and Csihar’s masterful wails (which function perfectly in this context), the band set a haunting precedent.
The album isn’t a difficult listen, but it is a challenging one – at no point does the ensemble’s esoteric sound tire, as the album’s compositions (punctuated by two shorter, bleepy interludes in the middle) fade flawlessly into one another. Impassable Fears is an almost hypnotic experience, gripping the listener through unconventional sound design and a disparate pool of influences.
The crux of the album lies in its fusion of conventionally unfashionable experimentalism – taking its cues from a wide range of experimental extreme metal. Gravetemple’s sound on the album is one part off-kilter noise ala pre-Marduk weirdos Abruptum, one part screeching guitar-based noise ala Spanish occultists Teitanblood, and one part neu influenced experimentalism ala Pan-Thy-Monium, synergized into a crawling, droning context. It’s through these eclectic roots that Gravetemple pull off a masterfully unique 37-minute compendium of vicious, hypnotic psychedelia.
The release makes a very good case for the existence of a post-death genre – building the apocalyptic atmospheres of 90s death metal into convulsing atmospherics, influenced just as much by the droning weirdness of krautrock and Neu as it is by the dissonant machinations of extreme metal.
In conclusion, for those thirsting for trance-inducing noise, or the listener slightly bored by the gimmick-laden humdrum of extreme metal in 2017, Impassable Fears is an essential listen, purchase and experience.
Impassable Fears is out now on Svart. Purchase here.
Words: Richard Lowe