If I told you what genre this album is, would you still click me?
Post-metal gets a bad wrap. Sure, bad post-metal has a tendency to drone on and on before anything happens, or maybe nothing happens at all, but I could say the same thing about a mediocre black metal band that just tremolos and blasts for 30 minutes with little variation. While that band will be ignored for being boring, they are not ignored just because of the the genre namedrop. Sure, there are a LOT of bad post-metal bands, but that shouldn’t make us ignore the good ones. Every genre has its boring copycats, but it has gotten to the point where even the post-metal bands and promoters acknowledge this genre bias.
The most recent example I have seen is in the promo materials for Gloson’s Grimen. Over on their Art of Propaganda Bandcamp page (who I assume wrote this up) they say “Although post-metal might be a very millennial creation, with peaks and valleys of creativity across an expansive spectrum […] newcomers can still offer new twists on an oft-tired subgenre” and “‘post-metal’ is merely a springboard for bolder, more daring excursions into the beyond.” Now I’m not picking on AoP; compared to most promo materials I read, these guys deserve a Nobel. They just happen to be the most recent pushers of “yeah, it’s post-metal, but give it a shot anyway” rhetoric. I don’t think they should have to do this, especially when it is VERY GOOD post-metal.
I’m also not saying that the people who do this apologizing are wrong; in fact, it’s quite an effective rhetorical device to get someone to try something they might not ordinarily be interested in. I don’t have the stomach to go back and reread my old articles, but I’m sure I have done this before. Something along the lines of “sure, it’s djent, but it’s really good djent!” probably came out of my mouth at some point.
The rhetorical device should be used for those rare instances in which you’re trying to get someone to listen to something that is WAY outside their comfort zone. Such as “hey, I know you only listen to artists that start with Toby and end with Keith and you’re not into metal, but trust me, this is different”. It shouldn’t be used on a metal band that is primarily targeting metalheads because it is slightly out of step with what’s hip. So who am I blaming then? Well, the democracy I guess. As a consumer, I like genre labels because they help filter out some stuff I’m probably not going to like, but with a high enough recommendation, I’ll try anything.
I have three main criteria that I use to judge post-metal. Every song needs to be distinct, the building sections can’t be boring (even if the payoff is good), and the hooks must be engaging (with at least a few that are hair-raising). Gloson achieves every one of these on this album; however, not every song does. Since this is their first full length, I sense some exploring and growth still happening.
The first half of them album is hit and miss throughout the lengthy songs, with “Antlers” standing out to me as being the most unique with it’s slow and punishing first half and an gloomy/melodic back half.
They really step up their game with “Cringe”, which is surprisingly cathartic compared to the doominess of the rest of the album. It’s a little repetitive, as post-metal tends to be, but the groove just feels too good for it to matter. You don’t need the typical post-metal patience since the whole thing is engaging, but the ending is a perfect billowing progression from the main riff.
“Embodiment” is a perfect example of their song building abilities. While most of their material is pretty distinct from the major post-metal players, this song sounds like it was taken from the Cult of Luna handbook in the best way. When the sinister growls kick in after an eight-minute shapeshifting groove, the energy just surges through your veins.
These Swedes do not need to apologize for being post-metal. They are on the “I like this a lot” side of the 3.5/5 Toilet Spectrum.
Grimen will be released on February 13 via Art of Propaganda.