With a hefty eight years under their bullet belts since the release of WW, Gehenna make their long-awaited return with their latest funeral doom offering… uh no wait, scratch that! It’s most definitely snow-capped, Norwegian, black metal following in the same general direction as say Taake or Urgehal. With a hulking eight year wait, I was holding my breath in expectation of a funereal dirge at the very least…
I’ll forgive you having trouble placing Gehenna. Journey back in time with me to the mid to late 80s and maybe you’ll remember that Gehenna are the ghostly souls that brought you the understated beauty of First Spell, delivering the bewitching, atmospheric ode “Angelwings and Ravenclaws”, closely followed up by Seen Through the Veils of Darkness (the Second Spell) and Malice (Our Third Spell). Skip ahead because to be honest, I was content with The Spells, and for the most part I lost track of Gehenna until WW reared it’s angry, brutish, death-like head.
The aptly titled Unravel sees Gehenna folding back on itself in an attempt recapture the bygone days of The Spells. “The Decision” gets this mossy ball rolling with it’s simple, plodding intro that brings to mind the stark desolation and melancholy of Ulver and some of the misanthropy of Gravdal. Sanrabb’s vox are in top form, his dragged out scream in “The Decision” has a kind of a strained, gut-wrenching, throaty sort of half growl/half scream that brings to mind the anguished lamentations of John Haughm during the early, unpolished days of a young Agalloch.
The tracks that follow have an unpleasant sort order, they switch between fast and slow consecutively, which quickly becomes predictable and boring and steals from the natural ebb and flow of the atmosphere being created. Things start to lean towards fiery, when Slaktaren (drums) finally lets his demons come out to play. He pounds away at his kit like his life depends on every drum beat, and though he’s not the best drummer in the world, he gets the job done reasonably well in “Nine Circles of Torture” and “End Ritual.” “Nine Circles of Torture” is a short track in comparison to others on Unravel and Gehenna would have been wise in keeping all their songs in the same ballpark; their tendency to waffle on and try to edge up to that eight-minute mark as with the doom and gloomy “A Grave of Thoughts” is to their detriment.
Unravel sees Gehenna taking another step back in time when compared with the crisp feel of WW. There are definite similarities in the pulled back feel of the vocals, but where WW had a refreshing clarity to the instrumentation, Gehenna have lost this aspect and kept with tradition in their self-production of Unravel.
When I put Unravel up against The Spells and newer much more exciting options on my playlist, like Taake‘s “Du Ville Ville Vestland” and “Myr” off their Noregs Vaapen album, I admit some disappointment has crept into my cold blackened heart. Unravel has a few good tracks on it (“The Decision,” “Nine Circles of Torture and “Death Enters”), but it’s not going to make Album Of The Year and I’m doubtful it’ll even get an honorable mention. In short, it’s something I’ll spin when I’m home alone and I just want a somber and atmospheric presence without adventure to dilute the cloying silence [But cloying silence is so METAL! — Steel Druhm].