The summer of 2014 is quickly becoming the Summer of American Black Metal. Between stellar releases from Panopticon, Wolvhammer, and Wolves in the Throne Room, the Land of the Free has been churning out some primo, top-shelf Grade A Black(ened) Angus. Brand-spankin’-new two-piece Gnosis of the Witch are tossing both of their hats into the fiery pits with their second EP (and first for Iron Bonehead Productions), the easy-to-pronounce Dauðr Burðr Þrysvar. Will you be lost in their Thursian black charm, or will there be some work to be done to enslave you to the darkened grasp of Ginnungagap?
After a short atmospheric intro, the EP launches into earnest with “Ormar Eitr”. A trebly, barely melodic guitar melody echos out of the abyss while Swartadauþaz (drums) blasts away like an absolutely apeshit gremlin who’s pissed off that someone destroyed his portal back to the netherworlds. As for the rest of the music, picture what Absu would have sounded like if they just stayed black metal, but kept the insanity intact. Vocally, Niðafjöll (vocals/everything else) has some incredibly throat-destroying screams. Picture a cross between earlier Vinsdval and a pissed off Gollum vomiting profusely. I call his vocal style “preciousssssssing” (patent and copyright pending).
Now, it all sounds good so far, yes? Problem is, you can pretty much copy and paste this formula to the rest of the EP. There’s no major standouts other than that particular track. There are no memorable lyrics to speak of (unless you are fluent in Icelandic), everything kind of blurs together after a while, and unless you are seeing red, it’s a bit hard to get into the mood of the record, especially when, like me, you’re trying to find stuff to pick out and show as a highlight. It ain’t easy, folks.
As for the sound of the album, it’s pretty standard black metal production values. Guitars are insanely trebly, drums are a bit low in the mix (which is a bit of a shame, as Swartadauþaz is a beast behind the kit), and the vocals are ridiculously thick and haunting. A beef I have, and it’s a beef I have with EPs on a whole lately, is if you are going to put out a 4- or 5-song EP, leave the intros at home, or incorporate them into a song somehow. You want to put your best foot forward when you’re looking to enslave someone into the pits of darkness. Go full Ginnungagap or go home [That’s on a motivational sign at my gym! — Steel Druhm].
This isn’t a bad introduction to Gnosis of the Witch and while it isn’t what I would consider essential, I’m looking forward to seeing where this duo ends up in a few years. Plus, it’s not this. Here’s to the next go-around.