Gràb – Zeitlang Review

A hefty chunk of metal has to do with reckonings. Whether about the absence of God, the rejection of the superficially “beautiful,” or the fact that we will all be worm-food one day, bands use the medium to highlight the darker side of a showdown we all must face. If pop is about how we’d like things to be, metal is about how things are. Part of reckoning is looking back honestly at our lives as we get older.  Zeitlang (Yearning), the debut album by Gràb—a German black metal trio created by former Dark Fortress front-man, Grant—centers on an old man who retreats to a cottage deep in the mountains to reflect on his life. As he delves deeper into his memories, he becomes progressively more consumed by the darkness he finds, until it consumes him, and he perishes. Now, if you wanted to hear a bitter old man rage against the dying of the light, you could just come to the AMG cafeteria and join Steel’s table after he’s had a few glasses of hobo wine and the writers are having a tardy week. But you’re probably better off sticking with Zeitlang which, while a bit long-winded, is certainly more entertaining.1

Sung entirely in Bavarian, Zeitlang is a melancholic journey using traditional second-wave black metal aesthetics. There are synthesizers reminiscent of Emperor, atmospherics in the vein of Wolves in the Throne Room, and a soundscape reminiscent of Darkthrone. Gràb are not reinventing the black metal sound here, but by introducing just enough of their own personality into the tracks, they pay homage to their influences without being overly derivative. By following the story of a man’s life, the band is able to weave differing elements seamlessly into the collection without it feeling forced or contrived. The result is a verisimilitude that is rare for a debut, and that is palpable even if you don’t understand a word of Bavarian.

Zeitlang primarily succeeds both because Gràb’s material is strong, but also because it is anchored by a sense of melancholic purpose. Whether displaying raw fury (“Nachtkrapp,” “Weizvada”) or slowing down for more introspective fare (“Zeitlang”), a palpable sense of sorrow pervades the material. This provides the songs with a gravitas that eludes many other albums. The album successfully conveys the bitterness and regret of a sad life without becoming a painful suffer-fest, or descending into the maudlin. The riffs are brisk and catchy, the melodies bite, and the atmosphere is convincing. The overall results are catchy, interesting songs with actual heft.

It’s not perfect, however. Much like a meandering rant from an elderly citizen, the material is occasionally bloated and sometimes gets lost.2 At over an hour, there is a lot happening here, but there is also a degree of repetition that could easily have been trimmed. “Zeitlang” and “Norwand,” for example, are not bad songs, but there is nowhere near enough material to justify a combined length of nearly 20 minutes. Both tracks revolve around a central riff that simply cannot sustain the weight of so much time. This excess creeps into the album itself, which goes through a definite lull in its middle third before rallying as the night toddy kicks in. This bloat, while not fatal to Zeitland, does diminish from the impact of its weighty theme.

With Zeitlang, Gràb have come out of nowhere to drop one of the more enjoyable black metal releases of recent weeks. Considering it’s a debut, the decision to go with a mournful concept album was ballsy, but it has paid off. The already-strong material is enriched by the narrative that underpins it. It’s at times uneven, and, like my first n00b review, could certainly have used editing, but this is charmingly frustrating rather than album-killing. This is an impressive release and sets the stage for more to come. Reckonings from grumpy old men are rarely this affecting and entertaining.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Trollmusic
Websites:  |
Releases Worldwide: September 24th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Report to Assisted Living H.R. for a lengthy discussion on respect for one’s elders and betters. – Steel
  2. Ageism hurts us all. – Steel
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