Despite originally forming in 1986, The Grand Manifestation is the first full-length offering from Swedish five-piece Third Storm. After just two years and a handful of shows, Third Storm’s original line-up disbanded. It was not until 2014 that founding member, Heval Bozarslan, gathered a new band around him, releasing the Taritiya Me EP a year later. Despite its Mayhem-inspired cover and the howling winds and distant siren that open the EP, it’s not a black metal offering. Some promising-sounding death groove is short-lived and gives way to medium-paced, funeral doom, which dominates most of the 25-minute runtime. Which Third Storm would be on display on The Grand Manifestation—the anticipated black metal, the groove-laden death that made a brief cameo, or the sludgy doom that dominated?
Well, bugger me if it isn’t all of the above and then some. Third Storm are straight out of the starting blocks without so much as a “by your leave,” exploding into the blackened death of opener “Prima Mobilae.” Any thoughts of this being a blueprint for the album, however, are quickly dashed, as Bozarslan and Co. showcase their varied influences and undeniable musicianship throughout, veering from tech death, through doom—a quick breather on choral interlude “Sapiens Formulae”—to thrash and black metal, and back again. This sometimes occurs even within a song. “Forgotten Deity”—the album’s longest track, clocking in at slightly over eight minutes—initially evokes Blackwater Park-era Opeth with a picked acoustic intro that breaks into huge, soaring riffs. But, after a brief dual-axe gallop worthy of Iron Maiden, it “settles” into a swirling mix of blackened death, thrash and slower, doomy riffage.
My slight unease with Third Storm is that they perhaps lack a settled identity. An unassuming metalhead could easily walk through a room where the outstanding “Gorakaathuar”—an unlikely (unholy?) combination of Skeletonwitch and Gorguts—is playing, into another room in which thrashy “Through Eyes of the Omnipresent” is belting out, and onto yet a third where “The Third Thought from the Sun” is doing its doom thing without for a moment considering that they might be hearing three tracks from same band (or album for that matter).
Apparently unwilling to nail their colors to any particular metallic mast for more than a track at a time, there is no doubt that Third Storm took me on a journey. With The Grand Manifestation, these ambitious Swedes have served up an incredibly varied slab of extreme metal, doing nearly all of it with aplomb. Stickman Alvaro Svanerö is quite a find, switching effortlessly between blast beats and more complex tech-death drumming but still adding something on slower numbers like “The Third Thought from the Sun.” The production, which is sharp and crisp in most respects, undersells Svanerö’s work, however, with a tendency, particularly in faster sections, to leave the drum lines sounding slightly flat. Guitarists Hasse Hansson and David Eriksson operate well together, giving the doom elements of the record real weight, while offering some killer leads and occasional, but welcome, moments of melody—at times recalling Nile circa 2005’s Annihilation of the Wicked. Bozarslan’s harsh vocals, which largely alternate between guttural death metal barks and doom-inspired howls, are one area where—in contrast to the rest of the album—a little more variation would not have gone amiss. While his delivery strong, Bozarslan does not display the same dexterity as his bandmates.
The dilemma in deciding what I make of The Grand Manifestation arises largely from the huge variety of styles on show from Third Storm. They are undoubtedly very talented musicians but, for me, they try to do too much. I don’t know whether there was a conscious attempt to put something for everyone (or “everything for everyone,” as the promo material would have it) on here but the album gives the curious impression of listening to a playlist. That said, it’s an enjoyable listen, featuring some solid extreme metal cuts, and is an album to which I will undoubtedly return. As this is apparently the first part in a concept trilogy, it will be intriguing to see where Third Storm take us next.