To kick off 2014 there really is no more fitting genre to review than black metal. Why? Because it’s proof that absolutely nothing ever changes. In fact it’s almost a sign that the apocalypse most certainly is not nigh; the wind still blows, the trees still grow and black metal bands still wear bullet belts and corpse paint. But at some point as a community of metalheads we simply have to pull the wool from our eyes and admit to ourselves that there is absolutely no purpose to bands like Graveborne any more — and frankly there hasn’t been for decades.
It really doesn’t matter how solid the riffs are at this point, nor how well the drumming drives these songs along without falling into stale beats or forgetting well-needed fills. It’s gotten to the point where I could make a playlist of every Gorgoroth-worship band of the past 10 years and be wholly unable to tell which is which. For all its competent aspects, ‘hrough the Window of the Night is a pretty shameless cash-in on the innovations of their forebearers and it has absolutely nothing new to say or convey other than “we are a black metal band that likes black metal.” It’s Nargaroth without any of the blatantness.
The most frustrating thing about this album is that there’s little overtly terrible about it. In fact, there’s a lot of decent aspects that get killed by sheer redundancy. Most notably of these is Pentele’s drumming, and even an obnoxiously bad, brickwalled recording can’t kill the energy and variation of his playing. Almost every part he plays is a fill, which might get on one’s nerves on anything more than a half-hour black metal record — thankfully he’s in the right place here and steals the show. The leadwork, highly reminiscent of Gorgoroth‘s thrashy, disorienting style creates some momentarily enjoyable riffs, even if they do go by like a summer breeze and ultimately are forgetten due to the aforementioned redundancy.
The Immortal-like rhythm guitars, never sticking to simply strumming one chord, are pleasing enough and at least prove that the band aren’t lazy songwriters, despite being uncreative with their theme, appearance and artwork. With all these factors working for them, it’s a shame that the hectic nature of the music and the utter lack of dynamics make every last moment sounds like the next. With standard fare raspy vocals and every scream sounding the same, you lose track of what’s going on. Thankfully, the songs don’t progress in predictable ways, even if they start and end that way. But when we’re talking about an album that simply doesn’t let up for half an hour, it’s perhaps a touch more forgiveable.
So it’s a decent album, right? I’m not one for calling for innovation simply for the sake of it, true, but there comes a point where any given formula needs at least cursory re-evaluation [I agree! — Steel Druhm]. Even with above-average instrumentation, Graveborne sounds like any garage black metal act that managed to get a studio recording, and with the plethora of identical albums appearing last year alone, that just isn’t enough to cut it any more. Listen after listen and absolutely nothing shined through that hasn’t been done to unholy death. Offering only better studio quality and nothing else isn’t the progression anyone intended 20 years after the second wave of black metal garnered notoriety. It’s kind of incredible that the albums back then sounded better than this one — Graveborne‘s rendition sounding like a wimpy, brickwalled mess, giving even Fleshgod Apocalypse a run for their money in anti-fidelity.
Through the Window of the Night is insultingly typical and frustratingly well done, and I say ‘frustratingly’ because it’s a shame when clearly capable musicians are stuck doing something that would have arguably been trite a decade ago. Even then, it was so easy to frown on the Watain philosophy of copying Norwegian bands of yesteryear and adding higher production values. Based on the technique displayed on this album, they’ve convinced me they would put on an excellent live show — but absolutely none of that translates to the recording and there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done better hundreds of times in the decade before. And don’t get me started on the decade before….