Regret. We all experience it in one way or another. Some feel it after a heavy night of drinking before a working day. Others after indulging amorous emotions with an ex’s mother. Me? The regret I feel is for missing great music the first time around. It was in the process of skimming year end lists to uncover my omissions that I was directed towards Black Wisdom by Grey Heaven Fall. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by the band and now have my grubby hands all over their CD, enigmatic artwork and lyrics included. However, unlike most self-important swipes at depicting ‘beautiful darkness,’ their vision is thoroughly convincing and there’s a lot to admire in their avant-garde influenced black metal.
Returning to basics, these Russians nail the album’s flow and dynamics. It’s just within the realms of acceptable duration at 50 minutes, and though this is only split across 6 tracks, the album’s progression maintains interest. Passing the marker of what can be described as their core, dissonant black metal on the opener, second track “Spirit of Oppression” thrashes its way through to a highly emotional second half, featuring harsh vocals which can only be described as hopelessly desperate, before intensifying again with a bathos-drenched guitar solo to conclude. The mid-way ambient interlude, while typical, effectively affords a moment for reflection and refocuses the listener. “Tranquillity of the Possessed” re-energizes the record with the greatest demonstration of diversity on a single song and closer “That Nail in a Heart” perfects the duality of delicate tension and cathartic release many bands strive for.
The creativity of “Tranquillity of the Possessed” highlights how Grey Heaven Fall capably coalesce myriad styles under their broad black metal approach. The opening pulses with doomy resonance (I would love to hear more of this in future releases), and it progresses on to passages which draw heavily from death metal, with groovy chromatic chord progressions and deep, growling vox. Particularly tempestuous moments, such as those at the end of this track and on “To the Doomed Sons of Earth,” have a thrashy aggression. There’s even a fantastic hair metal solo thrown on to “That Nail in a Heart” which harmonizes shockingly well with the somber melody over which it sits.
More than anything, Black Wisdom‘s mystique is what encapsulates me so. The ambiguous, impressionistic artwork intrigues me, as do the intricate, religious overtones of the lyrics. Too often is black metal belabored by tired Christian-bashing. The approach here is one of emphasizing the perversity of God, where one cannot experience the good without the bad; indeed, how one cannot understand the good without the bad. I’m aware that over-analyzing extreme metal lyrics can be a whimsical endeavor, but the total package contributes to my admiration for the album.
In all, Black Wisdom is a beautifully macabre release. Yes, it’s as compressed as they come and a few minutes could be shaved but I highly recommend it to fans of Deathspell Omega or other experimental black metal bands. If, like me, language appeals to you, observe the following quote from the back cover of the CD and fall for their vision. If not, rest assured that the music is excellent too.
And God put his seed into the earth belly,
While springing up with Death in walking exhausted relics,
Which had been contemplating the decay.
The eighth day.
Tracks to check: “Spirit of Oppression,” “Tranquillity of the Possessed,” “That Nail in a Heart.”