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As moody and pensive as the ex your mother never liked, Dortmund’s Grabunhold impress with their first full-length, Heldentod, released on Iron Bonehead Productions.
It’s black metal, but not as you know it: steering away from the, (frankly awful) production characteristics that help gave black metal it’s raw edge and ‘charm’, the Grabunhold sound is a very welcome addition to a genre sadly lacking in new direction. The production quality is great – it’s refined without being polished, large without sounding spacey – and gracefully adds an extra dimension to the record.
Wolkenbruch über Amon Sul’s thunder and lightning intro is a fitting backdrop to the ambient chords setting the sombre tone that accompanies the listener even when the pace picks up with the scratchy vocals and dry riffs two minutes in. A melancholy breakdown near the five-minute mark reveals more of the promise that Grabunhold are not here to just make up the numbers or offer little new to the scene. Trommeln in der Tiefe is reminiscent of a 12th Century pagan funeral procession if it was performed by Joy Division, and 4th track Flammen und Schatten sounds, dare I say it, glorious.
The tracks either surge forward without ceremony before slowing to a meditative pace (you can’t help but wonder why they didn’t release a double album – one half blistering, the other half brooding – as they are masters at doing both) or begin with reflective, ancient tones, and once the final track quickly comes round you discover more nuances to their sound on repeat listens.
There a couple of areas that could do with tweaking – the drumming can be a little repetitive, the bass a little subdued, the songs a tad long – but for a debut album, it impresses regardless. Moving from violent to vulnerable, sombre to scorching, the Tolkein-influenced Germans effortlessly show off a variety uncommon for the genre that makes you think ‘why can’t all black metal be like this?’, which is remarkable feat for a band so early in their career.
Release date: January 22, 2021
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