Thursday, 4 February 2010

Gravsorg - Visions of Depression (2009) 70/100.

Are Gravsorg responsible for the world’s first thoughtful depressive black metal record through the intricate workings of ‘Visions of Depression’? I discovered Gravsorg shortly after discovering the cryptic force of Danish band Woebegone Obscured. Gravsorg’s drummer, Danny Woe, is a musician both bands, though he probably isn’t the central creative figure behind the bands obscure style. Whilst Woebegone Obscured are a hybrid band with a difference, Gravsorg place a slow-to-mid paced depressive style which differs at much as humanly possible from that of Woebegone Obscured experimental style, which bashes together the black, death and doom genres together to create an unfathomable force akin to bands like defunct Australian legends Disembowelment. Gravsorg’s uneasy style is difficult to relate to any other modern day figure and thus gives the impression that they’re probably a lot more original than most would imagine.

‘Visions of Depression’ doesn’t tend to rely on all those methods which are normally associated with depressive black metal and, instead, likes to vary the output by using a variety of vocal exploits, to cleaner sections of instrumentation - sometimes this are used thoughtfully alongside harsher passages as on songs like ‘Frustrated Into Solitude’. The ideologies behind this demented façade are pretty much exactly what one would expect from the sub-genre. The lyrics revolve around cliché ideas like solitude and suicide, but the sub-genre, even going by it’s loose description, doesn’t give lyricists much room in which to work with - or does it? There is a feeling bands like this should be more experimental with their lyrical themes because they have a habit of showcasing a variety when it comes to the instrumentation. The juxtaposed ideas of clean and harsh sections being placed alongside one another are a fine example of this characteristic that becomes slowly more familiar throughout. This isn’t a main feature however, as the distortion tends to have a much bigger part within the structure of each of the songs.

The aforementioned song is especially good as showing how Gravsorg make easy work of finding a balance between clean and harsh with good affect. There seems to be a level of experience here that isn’t found in most bands of this youthful nature. The band are without a label at the moment and seemingly recorded the record by themselves, as well as distributing it without a record, so this definitely points to a level of experience and know-how that we, the listener, are probably not aware of. The production is perfect. It doesn’t give the instrumentation too flat a feeling and certainly doesn’t try to punch above its weight. There is a feeling of simplicity with the harsher sections, especially one layered section of the guitars. The use of expected repetition plays a part in this, but the cleaner segments, which are used sparingly, are an attribute that makes me aware of the little things on the record which make it that more interesting, rather than becoming a dime-a-dozen barrel of laughs at which we can all point and make fun of for being so desperately unoriginal. To me, there are aspects of this record which blend into other genres, like funeral doom for example.

Danny Woe, in particular, has experience at delving into dungeons as dark as that of funeral doom and again that level of experience is heightened by his presence. Funeral doom plays a part, albeit only a small one, in the construction of this daring piece. The slow, fuzzy lead guitars and elongated screams of the vocalist remind me of venomous funeral doom bands who know how to hold an atmosphere for just the right duration of time before it becomes too tedious. Exploration of the soundscapes doesn’t take place as much as I’d like. Cleaner aspects, like the layered guitar work, are exited from center stage so the distortion can have the limelight. I’d prefer more cleaner sections and more focus on the repetition turning into a mesmerising blast of depression, rather than it swirling into an endless oblivion where the momentum can have a habit of being lost. The record has tinges of atmospheric black metal, too, which could have been explored a bit more before the typical aspects come back into play. Overall, despite being a generally tasteful debut, there isn’t too much to get excited about, but I do enjoy the slower depiction of death which the guitars do a good job of showing.

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