For the past month, my focus, time, and soul have been consumed by the fact that my wife and I suddenly decided to move our family out of our house of seven years and put it on the market. While the impetus for this decision is positive and hopefully ends up taking advantage of the current economic conditions, that doesn’t change the fact that moving fucking sucks ass. Add to that my utter disdain for home improvement and maintenance projects and the fact that my children have been systematically destroying our home since the moment they were born, and you can imagine how much fun Holdeneye is having getting his house ready to sell. I was in the midst of scrubbing some unidentified congealed brown goo that had run from the top shelf of my pantry all the way down behind the floor trim when I started to question why human beings even need houses.
As if on cue, a momentary silence in my headphones is broken as a highly melodic yet terrifying tremolo fades in, only to cut out to allow a wolf to howl far, then near. I’m overcome with primal energy, and I seriously consider shedding my clothes and running into the woods to live out my days as the basis for further Sasquatch sightings1. Realizing that I have neither the temperament nor the survival skills for such an endeavor, I resolve to keep scrubbing and simply enjoy the sweet sounds of “Wolf of the Eclipse,” the opening track from Grafvitnir‘s sixth Swedish black metal opus Venenum Scorpionis. Listen to the first forty seconds and they will tell you everything you need to know about this album. If you like tremolos and blast beats with a few diversifying detours, you will enjoy the next 37 minutes and change.
Imagine an album entirely based on Dissection‘s “Soulreaper” but with higher pitched rasps, and you’ll be pretty close to the sound that’s on tap here. “The Beast Inside” is an early highlight with a spidering riff that’s spliced onto the tremolo during the intro and a middle section that pulls the blasts back to allow the melody to really shine. Perfectly named “Throne of Blackened Domains” is five and a half minutes of relentless speed, and “Nocturnal Sun” adds in some traditional metal elements and opts for more double bass and less blasts to create another standout. There are two instrumental tracks here to break up what could be a fatiguing listen. The title track is an atmospheric interlude with some choir and sound effects, but doesn’t do a whole lot for me, while “I Nattens Mantel Svept” is a beautifully played acoustic medieval folk song that I looked forward to each time and had to repeat often. These respites create a welcome contrast with the ferocity of the rest of the material.
The band members seem to be part of that vast host of people enrolled in the Black Metal Musicians Anonymous Witness Protection Program2. I’ll just say that the vocals are performed with passion and perfectly complement the music, and the drums and guitars will have to duke it out for the Best Performance trophy. Some of these tremolos are unbelievably fast and tight, while the drum performance is garnished with fills and rhythm variations here and there to avoid blast beat overdose. The production is clear and bright, with the toms featuring a noticeable echo that gives the fills a wonderfully creepy depth. Some may find that the sheer amount of tremolo use on the album is overwhelming, and while I’ll admit that some parts of songs blend together, the quality of the music, the use of variation and interludes, and the compact runtime makes for a fun listen.
Having never heard of Grafvitnir, I was surprised when I learned that they’ve released five previous albums. While perhaps not deserving to be a household name due to the fact that you’ve heard everything here elsewhere, this is a band that should be known for their workmanlike ability to take the best of what black metal has to offer and forge it into a melodious package of icy steel. Venenum Scorpionis is the perfect vehicle for a momentary escape from the responsibilities of the modern adult human.