So far, most anti-fascist black metal that’s reached a significant level of recognition has been musically progressive, experimental or in some way boundary pushing. By their nature most of these bands are thinking outside the traditional black metal box, and so it’s no surprise that their music will gravitate towards the more sonically expansive corners of the genre. This is something that Gravpel definitely don’t do. Beyond their left-wing, anarchic, rabble-rousing message, the band purvey the kind of crust-infused old-school black metal that reeks of violence and fury; the difference is that Gravpel aim their aggression squarely at the fascists.
Gravpel features members from across the Basel metal underground, and so far have a self-titled demo and a split with fellow Swiss black metal act Holzerhurd under their belt. Power To The Filthy Masses is certainly a step up in sonic quality, but from a purely musical perspective this is nothing you haven’t heard before if you’ve taken even a passing interest in black metal. Tremolo picking riffs, ferocious blastbeats and rabid vocals are the essential components, and they’re punctuated by plenty of tritone melodies and the occasional fist-pumping groove. Classic, tried and true, and fun.
The tracks all have a restless energy that’s in equal measure endearing and caustic, while the clarity of production allows the record to be at full intensity almost the entire way through. This is certainly not a bad thing, and what the album lacks in dynamism it definitely makes up for in raw passion. That’s not to say this album is devoid of creativity though. Even with their high intensity style, the band utilise some engaging variations in velocity throughout the longer tracks like ‘Dividing Scars / Lines In the Dirt’, ‘What We Aim For / Power To The Filthy Masses’ and the closing track ‘Tribute To Tiqqun / Identity’. There’s also the occasional hint of classic metal riffage that makes its way in amongst the black metal deluge, most notably in the track ‘A Revolution Yet To Come / A Reality Yet To Embrace’.
Gravpel frame themselves with much of the same militia and corpse paint imagery that many right-wing black metal bands utilise. Their aim is to win back black metal from the fascists and take it back for the revolutionaries, a noble cause indeed and one that sets out their unique place within the anti-fascist black metal space. Power To The Filthy Masses delivers a huge statement of intent, and by pursuing such a fiercely pure sound Gravpel are helping to push anti-fascist black metal forward towards the black metal establishment in a way they can no longer ignore.
Power to the Filthy Masses is out today via Red Nebula (US), Abart Corruption (EU), Feral Age (EU) and Bad Moon Rising (Asia), and can be ordered here.
Words: Will J