Metal enthusiasts occupy interesting territories in our chosen sub-genres and general sub-culture. These spaces can be filled with comparisons ranging from a variety of motives: altruistic, in an effort to help others find familiar sounds; at times this is also done to degrade and deter others from seeking further out of their auditory comfort zone. With this in mind, I hope you seek to hear Grabunhold and decide for yourself.
It should not, and it does not, matter to the music that Grabunhold’s name is a Tolkien reference, and that they play melodic black metal – Summoning inspired this is not. It does not matter that this German band plays within the space of classic 90s black metal. That they are signed to Iron Bonehead will matter to some, and if you’re a fan of the label, you will be excited to explore another release. Again, this should not matter, what you hear is the only calling card Grabunhold wants you to focus on.
This EP is comprised of 4 tracks. Well, 3 tracks really, the 3rd track is a short interlude where both guitars interplay alto and tenor leads wonderfully drenched in reverb.
The Teutonic ethos of the band is evident in how well each song is crafted and how memorable each track is from one another. These songs are fun. Yeah, serious black metal can be fun. Taking this EP in its entire 18-minute run I couldn’t help but be transported to a bleak, moonlight trek through mountains of desolation, despair, and sometimes clarity – but not quite hope. Is it a journey you’ve been on before? Certainly. Especially if the 90s 2nd wave melodic bands of Norway and Sweden speak to you. Is it a journey through a moldy corner of Middle-Earth? It doesn’t matter, and it wouldn’t matter if it was a medieval venture nor a frost covered climb through Scandinavia or the Balkans. The question should be – Is the journey worth your while?
On to the songs, I like the production. Raw yet clear, polished but not shinny – all instruments come through, yeah, the bass too. Noteworthy to me are the guitars, and the drumming. The guitars are front and center, as they should be for a band showcasing the lead work contained here. If you like your riffing clear, trebly, soaking in reverb, you’re in the right place. If you like precise, contrasting tremolo leads, guess what? Still the right place. If you like catchy melodies that worm their way into your earholes, goddamn it, you still are in the right place. The drumming on these songs add a memorable aspect of the work presented here. This is evident in all three songs. One aspect that stood out to me was the cymbal work accompanying the lead lines. Occasionally, a bit of d-beat adds energy and variety to the timely use of blasts.
There is speed, power, fury, melody, space, and reverence for the classic sound – the atmosphere is there, the feeling is there – these songs speak for themselves. What Grabunhold presents us with does not overstay its welcome.
This is what black metal is to me, a journey through moods, emotions, and feelings most people dare not face. As you face that journey, sometimes you face yourself, and to find connection via sounds that resonate with you make that journey satisfying, dare I say, enjoyable and fun. I am no one to tell you what music is to you, I am no one to tell you what “true black metal” is, each of us have our answers regarding what constitutes “true black metal”.
My hope is that you forgive me for not going into negatives, what’s a deterrent to me may be a benefit to you. I hope you check them out and decide for yourself. I look forward to their full length in the future. (Hymnull)