Death metal and black metal have much in common with each other with many bands blurring the distinction between the two as they progress from album to album. However, while death metal’s cold technicality can grate, the passionate yet less discerning musical elements of black metal can equally hinder the impact of some bands and the hinterland that exists between the two offers plenty of scope for bands to roam, picking out the elements that appeal to them at will. Behemoth are on such band who evolved over their albums from the icy black metal of ‘Grom’ to the puritanical death metal of ‘Demi-god’ and Ghamorean, here on their third album, similarly incorporate elements of both genres to unsettling effect.
I’ve had ‘Terra Ruina’ on the stereo for a few days now, just absorbing the atmosphere projected by this talented trio of Swedes and it’s fair to say that this is an album that repays that sort of repeated listening as the harsh production only slowly reveals the band’s secrets to the curious listener. First track, the Celtic Frost-esque ‘Towards Pandemonium’ is a case in point. Despite a production job that could be politely termed ‘raw’, there’s an innate musicality possessed by the band who offer up taut tempo changes, bludgeoning rhythms and multiple vocal styles to good effect. As a result, while the track harnesses the forceful structure of death metal, there’s a subtlety too, built out of the icy bleakness that a fascination with black metal will undoubtedly bring which makes the fact that it is snowing while I review this all the more appropriate. As the track reaches its doom-laden, slowed down climax it’s hard not to get swept away by the blackened grandeur which the band exude and it’s immediately apparent that the reduction in band members has only honed the bands determination to a gleaming point ready to be thrust into the heart of the extreme metal genre. An ambitious opener, it lasts over seven minutes and tails out in a welter of feedback before the thrashing, snarling ‘Underneath grey heavens’ batters down your defences and wreaks havoc courtesy of syncopated rhythms and a dark groove that incorporates a huge, slowed down mid-section that makes up for the lack of speed with a pure, devastating might.
Having slowly ground you down, Ghamorean delight, upon the third track, on taking things a gloriously unhinged step further with a drum sound that sounds like Australian nutter The berserker playing in a kettle before everything steps sideways into a shadowy-twilight world of off-kilter guitars and over-driven bass. The final release, which takes a good couple of minutes to appear, is almost something of a relief as the track segues into the remarkably succinct ‘In man, a plague’ which could flay the skin from an elephants back at fifty paces. Utterly unforgiving, it harnesses elements of early Dimmu Borgir (before the huge symphonic swathes that typify their sound got the better of them) while another reference point would be latter-day Emperor which must surely tell you how good Ghamorean can be. ‘Cavalry and martyrdom’ slows the pace somewhat, fading in upon a slower, more brutal riff before the whole thing steps up a gear and Andreas Batsman unleashes some deliriously unnerving vocals over the top; certainly this is not for the faint of heart. ‘Worship my icon’, following on from such an epic journey, returns to a more straight-up approach to skull-crushing although David Ekevarn’s drumming is so far ahead of the curve an adjective such as ‘exemplary’ isn’t doing the man justice enough. Tight, innovative and clearly the result of an iron-discipline and will, the band may well be intent to crush all before them, but they do it with a skill and precision that suggests long hours in the rehearsal room something which has paid handsome dividends on this excellent album. ‘Iblis’ is an icy instrumental that burns with a cold flame before the album closes with ‘universal miscreant’, an equally slow-burning number that rouses itself from a cold fury to a fiery rage before burning out leaving you ready to hit play just to make sure that what you heard really was as daring, creative and exciting as it really was.
Overall Ghamorean have developed beyond all expectations to become a truly special band who roam the vast hinterland between death and black metal. Technical enough to satisfy fans who like their music to offer more than just a primal roar of undiluted rage, yet brimming with passion it is the perfect release with which to kick off 2011. Expect to hear more from this ambitious band because in ‘Terra Ruina’ Ghamorean have just put thrown down an impressive gauntlet to extreme bands releasing albums this year.
“Terra Ruina” is out on Jan 28th on Discouraged Records