Be it that Sweden’s Grift is named after the English word describing the acts of a con man or the Swedish word for “grave” is irrelevant to me. When I think of the word “grift,” my mind immediately turns to the clever 1973 film, The Sting. Having watched this movie close to a billion times, I recently discovered that my better half incorrectly assumed the characters were “drifters” rather than “grifters.” After some immature scorning, I came to the conclusion that the characters can just as easily be described as “drifters,” and so too can Grift‘s full-length debut, Syner. Grift‘s new opus is the soundtrack to an eternal road trip with unlimited fuel and ceaseless headlights; with no rest stops, no daylight, and no traffic of any kind. Trapped in your car with your memories, nightmares, and “what-ifs” haunting you at a steady pace of 55 mph through sultry deserts, ominous woodlands, and ridge-less prairies. Never to escape, and content with your situation, you’re comforted only by the soft hum of the engine, the Morse-code “dahs” of yellow on black, and the endless reel of cellophane recollections unfurling themselves over and over again in your mind.
Since the release of their 2013 EP, Frya Elegier, this Grift has ditched its drummer and Burzum-esque depressive black metal attitude and approached the newest release with something a little more unique. Exclusively controlled by lone-man, Erik Gärdefors (aka Perditor on Frya Elegier), Syner feels slightly removed from its precedent release as Gärdefors combines an atmospheric cloud of post-black atmosphere with some Dissection emotiveness, Nick Cave-esque doses of organ and piano flourishes (think Cave‘s movie soundtrack career), acoustic guitar interludes, and vocals on the desperate side of the blackened barbed-wire fence (akin to Niklas Kvarforth). In a forty-minute time period Gärdefors delivers six tracks that embody a soothing, yet sinister journey into impenetrable darkness.
The aforementioned organs haunt tracks like opener “Aftonlandet,” “Svältorna,” the instrumental “Slutet hav,” and closer “Eremiten Esaias.” The atmosphere created by this instrument is the very essence that breathes life into the lungs of Syner. Though “Slutet hav” is very similar to what the band did on the Frya Elegier track, “Bortgång,” it’s a beautiful album interlude that puts me in a state of amity that I can’t quite explain. “Aftonlandet,” one the other hand, uses the organ to build the song from a mere intro into a heavy coating of ambient black-metal riffage that transitions seamlessly into a gentle acoustic section with the same medicinal benefits as Flexeril. Much like the opener, the closer utilizes a significant amount of pure blackened emotion that accelerates the song – and the album – at the very moment the headlamps extinguish; enshrouding our road in complete darkness and guiding the wheel with captivating leads and the twangy conclusions of a self-induced repose.
For how great the closer is, the highlight of the album for me has to be “Undergörare.” Utilizing the melodies of old-school Dissection and Gorgoroth, “Undergörare” seems fairly standard through its first half before it builds and erupts into a climax ever exaggerated by orgasmic ambiance and Ihsahn-like clean vocals. Yet another Song ‘o the Year contender. Similarly, “Svältorna” is a top-notch piece that’s further strengthened by the video released for it (see below). Between the visual art, the emotive tremolos, and the organ/piano contributions, “Svältorna” stands out as one of the more accessible tracks and good representation of what Syner is all about.
Production-wise, there’s breathing room in the end-product and the minimized compression allows for a highly enjoyable listen. While maintaining the core sound of the band, Syner introduces new emotions that give it a uniqueness and free-flowing attitude the older material lacked. As long as Gärdefors continues to explore this darkened path, I will be riding along with it and anxiously waiting for more (regardless if what I am waiting for is a “grift” or the “grift”).