Mörk Gryning – Hinsides Vrede Review

Ah, youth. A time Steel and Huck no longer remember.1 When all beer is good, all kisses sweet, and anything is possible. For Goth Gorgon and Draakh Kimera, two teenagers in Sweden, this meant donning corpse paint, forming a band, and releasing an album before they were old enough to legally buy the champagne to celebrate. That album, Tusen År har Gått, was a fun combination of old-school, second wave black metal, with a definite slant towards the melodic. Think early Sacramentum, or, more recently, Wormwood. Tusen År har Gått would go on to be extremely well-regarded in metal circles, spawning a few, less interesting follow-ups.  As the group moved away from its popular debut, the raw sound evaporated, and with it, quite frankly, the ingredient that made Mörk Gryning interesting in the first place. In 2005, the group disbanded, seemingly for good, and yet, in 2020, the two original masterminds are back, together with a few new members, for Hinsides Vrede (Otherworldly Wrath). The AMG law of diminishing returns was on full display pre-disbanding, though. To be honest, it’s not often bands are able to pull out of that death spiral. And Mörk Gryning, sadly, is no exception.

Tusen År har Gått was no original masterpiece, but it was powered by the youthful energy and melodicism of its creators. Maintaining that balance is delicate, and Hinsides Vrede, unfortunately, falls too far on the melodic side of things, which renders it somewhat toothless. Slick guitars, rock ‘n’ roll melodies, and a shiny production all result in songs that are pleasant, but lack bite. Lots of great black metal albums put melody before raw aggression (check Kvaen’s The Funeral Pyre or Kannustaa’s eponymous debut), but those melodies need to be memorable. Hinsides Vrede is a distinct mixed bag in this regard. For every catchy riff (“Infernal”, “Without Crown”) there’s a generic dud (“The Night”, “Sleeping in the Embers”) that fails to ignite any kind of enthusiasm. This hit-and-miss songwriting makes the album a disjointed experience.

There’s also a serious sense of déjà vu. If you’ve been a black metal fan for more than a few weeks, you’ll recognize the album’s sound immediately. Unfortunately, it’s no longer 1995, and simply aping that era’s aesthetic no longer cuts it. While it certainly is comfortable, and to some extent, works, most modern black metal fans want more; something to separate the music from myriad imitators.  In that respect, Hinsides Vrede simply has no answers and no innovation. To compound matters, the track order is top-heavy; almost all of the best tracks come on the first side, leaving the second full of filler. Overall, Mörk Gryning’s approach to both songwriting and track-listing feels outdated.

The production is super sleek and shiny, which I found to be a hindrance to Hinsides Vrede. I know, I know, we reviewers are always whining about poor production on black metal albums, so it seems churlish to complain when a well-produced one comes along. But the extremely clean mix simply feeds into the lack of memorability. There’s no grit here; no texture. Everything has been homogenized and sanitized to the point that this almost feels like pop black metal. ”Blop metal,” if you will. Regardless of your feelings about my portmanteau, this is an example of an album that would have benefited from a less clean production.

The truth is, Mörk Gryning is better than this. For a band that has a minor classic under its belt already, Hinsides Vrede is a disappointing endeavor. It’s not terrible, it’s just distinctly unmemorable. The aggression which powered the early stuff is gone, replaced by melodicism that only intermittently entertains. The shiny production highlights the album’s flaws while rendering it sterile in the process. Hopefully, this is just the band working out its kinks, but a radical rethink is necessary because those returns diminished a long time ago. Black metal has moved on since 1995. The guys in Mörk Gryning are no longer youths. They should, too.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: morkgryning.bandcamp.com/  |  facebook.com/morkgryningband/
Releases Worldwide: October 16th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. We were there 3,000 years ago. We were there the day the strength of men failed. – Steel
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