Two years ago, I reviewed Grift‘s debut LP Syner. An album as captivating as it is depressing. Whenever I fall into a dark, depressed mood, I picture sole member, Gärdefors, sitting at a Hammond organ; his back facing the camera. I think of the old man, from “Svältorna,” wandering through a desolate, black-and-white landscape. But it isn’t just the imagery of Syner that captivates me. The images and the character are just a bonus. It’s the music that sends me careening through a canyon as dark as a Nick Cave soundtrack and as unique as a Sólstafir record. It has a suffocating mixture of Shining-like desperate, voice-throwing screams and cleans moodier than your grandma’s sanitarium. Coming off 2013’s Burzum-esque EP, I hoped Gärdefors would push on. I hoped for his refusal to revert back to the generic sounds of Fyra elegier. I hoped for more Syner. Well, my hopes became reality. And that reality is Arvet.
Like Syner, Arvet opens with a true mood-setter. “Flyktfast” begins with beautiful clean guitars, sliced open by a screeching bow across sinister strings. As the drums arrive, the Sólstafirian influences surface. Along with this, comes post-black metal tremolos and Gärdefors’ desperate, screaming vox. From here, the song alternates between black metal distortion and clean instrumentation. Yet, the song never abandons its thick melodic foundation. Follow-up track “Den stora tystnaden” uses a simplistic approach that borrows from the opener. It has a similar introduction (this time, using acoustic guitars), a similar hopeless atmosphere, and a similar vocal delivery. The result is a melodic one-two punch that steps the record off on the right foot.
That said, these two tracks aren’t as strong as the others. “Glömskans järtecken” and “Utdöingsbygd,” in particular, give their nods to their predecessors and then expand on them. “Glömskans järtecken” opens with nightmarish effects before converting to layered, depressive, post-black riffage. Once there, the song evolves into a mixture of powerful clean and rasping vocals, before closing out with one of the best riffs Grift has ever written. The riff is gentle, yet catchy; depressing, yet uplifting. “Utdöingsbygd,” on the other hand, takes a different approach. For one, it’s more aggressive than “Glömskans järtecken” (showing hints of the Gorgorothian attitude of Syner) but, like most of Grift‘s material, its dark melodies overpower. Chuck in some churchy/chanty spoken-word, and closing oooo’s and aaaah’s, and you have one tremendous piece.
But closer “Nattyxne” is my bread and butter. Open a song with some slow-moving, Green Carnation-like acoustic guitars and I’ll be there. After moving to the beat of Light of Day, Day of Darkness, the lightly-distorted guitars set a gentle pace that only builds from there. With the emotion increasing, the vocals are even more convincing and even more desperate. Three-quarters of the way through, the acoustic guitars return; building one last time and delivering more of that Sólstafir flair. It’s a gorgeous song and one of my favorites of the year.
Of all the tracks, there is one that doesn’t stand the test of time (even with only a handful of listens). But, to be fair, “Morgon på Strömsholm” isn’t actually a song. Though there are strings (which hack away with the same ferocity as a handsaw), this little “instrumental” is just a mid-album interlude full of speaking segments and crowing birds. It’s still effective in slowing your heartbeat, just before the high-energy “Utdöingsbygd,” but it’s two minutes too long. But, this does little to discourage me. Musically, Arvet is a fine mate to Syner. One that I feel I’ll be listening to just as much as Syner. Production-wise, it blows Syner out of the water. I mean, Syner‘s DR8 is great and all, but a DR12 for Arvet?! If you like Syner, there’s nothing else to say. Check this out.