Words About Music
I suppose it’s fitting that I review this album in November, since every November is “Nothing But Black Metal November.” My research on the band Germ hasn’t really gotten me many results, although I can tell you they’re an Australian experimental black metal project led by Tim Yatras, who has worked in other bands like Austere, Grey Waters, and Nazxul. I can also tell you that a lot of people on /mu/ were talking about this record and that it’s “the best black metal album of the year,” so I figured I’d give it a try since there aren’t many more releases left of 2013.
Anyway, like many recent black metal albums that have come out (namely “You-Know-What” by You-Know-Who), “Grief” seems to expand the boundaries of black metal to new realms. This album seems to deal less with blastbeats and more with a rock and roll type feeling, even sometimes heading into straight heavy metal territory. There are some guitar solos on here (placed underneath layers of tremolo-picked chords) that I wouldn’t put past the likes of Bon Jovi or Def Leppard. There’s even quite a bit of clean vocals every now and then. But again, remember, this is a black metal album first and foremost, no matter how much experimentation into shoegaze and hard rock it goes into. The shrieked indecipherable vocals are still there, as are the fast-paced guitars, but there are many points in the record where Germ utilize drum machines, keyboards, and other electronics. Germ are definitely at the forefront of strange heavy metal bands, especially when it comes to black metal.
“Grief” is also quite the emotional rollercoaster, with the longer songs being more uplifting (think your more post-rock oriented black metal bands) and with shorter tracks and interludes being much moodier and leading towards ambient sounds. They definitely have their own sound going for them that expands on the music of Liturgy, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Deafheaven.
Musically speaking, this album is extremely well produced, which makes sense since it’s supposedly been long in the making. I may never learn what the lead vocalist is saying (except in the cleaner parts on the album like on “The Stain of Past Regrets”), but I do know that the dude sounds emotionally drained while he is singing it. I guess that would also explain why there aren’t many vocal parts on this album when compared to other black metal records that depend almost entirely on vocals. But I guess it’s also just difficult to discern when he’s singing when the voice just fits in so perfectly with the other sounds on this album.
This album is sonically punishing, but also rewarding. It may not be the best black metal album of the year like some people are saying it is, but it’s no joke. It’s unpredictable, odd, and is more like a journey than an hour or so of music. Listen to it during your morning commute and just let it sink into you, because that’s the only way this album can be properly appreciated (in my experience anyway). It’s a doozy, and one that I wasn’t sure about on first listen. But it is worth understanding and delving into because it’s so eclectic. And while elitists may decry experimentalists like these for trying something new (with results of varying quality), I think that “Grief” is a worthwhile listen. So screw them and listen to me.
SCORE – 8.9
FAVORITE TRACKS – Butterfly, The Stain of Past Regrets, Memorial Address, An End, Beneath the Cliffs, Blue As The Sky Powerful As The Waves, How Can I?, I Can See It In The Stars, It’s Over, Withering in Hell, Ghost Tree Part 3
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