Coming from an upbringing of thrash and later on death metal, I crave the riff. I’m beholden to its power, its majesty. Scouring my surroundings for any signs of its presence can be tiresome, so much so that when one stumbles upon even a solitary morsel, it is voraciously consumed, the appetite expanded, rather than satiated. For three weeks straight now I’ve been gorging on the riffs Grafvitnir put on the table with their latest album Necrosophia, and there’s still some leftovers, if you’re hungry.
Prior to seeing this album pop up on my radar I had not heard Sweden’s Grafvitnir. The killer cover caught my eye though, and immediately after stabbing play on the track on offer (“Varulvsnatt”) I was rewarded with some ripping second-wave style black metal.
After doing a little looking around it appears the trio released their first album in 2012 and a second in December of 2014. Going back and listening to the proceeding album a few times, it became apparent to me that while it is a quality release, Necrosophia is a more refined effort and has a more cohesive overall sound.
So as you’ve probably elucidated from my introductory garbling, the guitar-work on this album appeals to me greatly. Each one of the 7 tracks is a riff-laden beast, offering no respite by way of clean passages or frilly interludes, just sharply honed icicles which pierce through the foggy Scandinavian veil of Winter and perforate your ear drums on their way into your brain. While a pervading melodic element exists in the songs, it is entirely based at the cold end of the spectrum, gusting with frigid squalls rather than balmy emotive breezes.
Unlike many of the recent black metal releases getting acknowledgement in recent memory, the guitars are the main provider of atmosphere on this album. Sure, there are some moments where the synth adds an extra layer of ambience to the mix, but it is strictly employed to accentuate the strong foundations. The second track, “Awakening of the Ancient Dragon” is a perfect example of this, its intro adorned with a diminished sounding riff replete with some blatant Nightside-era Emperor worship on the synth.
The vocals for the most part are standard fare for a black metal release of this kind, reminiscent of those from Setherial or early-Ihsahn minus the reverb, or to use a contemporary reference point, those found on last year’s releases from Akhyls and Barshasketh. The drumming does well to match the intensity of the guitars and has kept me interested throughout my umpteen playthroughs. The production on this riff-centric release should not disappoint either, everything is audible and seems balanced to my ears. Looking around, I’ve seen a fair few comparisons to Dissection, which while not completely out of context, were not the first band I’d categorise them with. So why mention it? Because if leaving a Dissection name-drop in here gets some of you stagnant cvrmvdgeons to check this album out, it was worth it.
As Spear mentioned in his This Toilet Tuesday round-up, this release does not exactly break through any genre-boundaries or attempt some abstract fusion of styles, but when an album is this damn solid, that is completely fine with me. Necrosophia allows me to indulge in what I seek most, and indulge I will.