Gravetemple’s strapline is “ceremony, volume and density since 2006”, but while ‘ceremonial’ might describe a gig by bassist/guitarist Stephen O’Malley’s Sunn O))) it really doesn’t apply to such dynamic yet murky, viscous and coagulant music as this. Only ex Mayhem growler Attila Csihar’s vocals have a liturgical bent, but they’re cast to the elements.
While Csihar’s guttural vocals accentuate the music’s black/doom metal connotations, the urgency of Oren Ambarchi’s drumming maintains the music’s molten semi-fluidity, and it’s his kit drumming that effectively synthesises the Sunn sound into a motoric krautrock/doom hybrid, a visceral take on his work with Will Guthrie or Richard Pinhas.
Granted space, O’Malley layers early riffs as as familiar Sunn O))) laminates, but the chords that introduce ‘A Szarka (The Magpie)’ are blunt, and grind coarsely against Ambarchi’s percussive primitivism. When the volatile batterie kicks back in those layers can’t adhere but slither and slide, larval in the generated heat. The ending, after just six minutes, is as blunt as those riffs.
‘Elavult Foldbolygo (World Out of Date)’ is another stab at the same terrain. Csihar casts imprecations into a thickly variegated and abrasive mass of layered guitars and electronics, pummelled into a turbulent seethe by rolling kit percussion and driven to peak intensity with abandon before segueing into the brief, ghostly afterburn of ‘A Karma Karmai (Karma’s Claws)’.
This is music cropped and compressed for vinyl distribution, and the remainder plays without interruption. ‘Domino’ introduces the LP flip side with a misty, diaphanous wash of bleeping synths and shimmering electronics, an instrumental that flows directly into ‘Athatolhatatlan Felelmek (Impassable Fears)’, where Csihar’s heard again, continuing his rituals, pitching gutturals and high-pitched throat song into a thunderous miasma of effects, picked up again and driven to compacted crescendos by rolling malleted percussion, crashing cymbals and thick impasto guitar grind. This ultimately segues into the synth-ambient balm of outro “As Orok Vegtelen Uresseg (Eternal Endless Void)”.
This is Gravetemple’s fourth release, but only their first for a label since they debuted on Southern Lord with the limited edition The Holy Down in 2007. It’s by far their most rounded and satisfying recording to date, and the heaviest and most primal music they’ve set down so far, combining the weight of expectation with concentrated post production and the elemental urgency of a live set.
Æthenor – Richard Pinhas and Oren Ambarchi – Hazel.
Richard Pinhas and Oren Ambarchi – Tikkun.
Nazoranai – The Most Painful Time Happens Only Once Has it Arrived Already..?.
O’Malley, Herzog, Atsuo, Kurihara – Ensemble Pearl.
Buy Impassable Fears direct from Svart.
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The album cover art, incidentally, might look like something from the dark side of the renaissance, but it’s actually a recent work by Denis Forkas Kostromitin http://www.denisforkas.com/