Monday, October 13, 2014

Grst - Plague Seed (Glossolalia Records)

What struck me immediately about Grst's first full length is the amount of confidence that is contained in the four tracks that make up Plague Seed. While the band materialized in 2009, they did not release something until earlier this year. Besides a one track on a split, the band's first release, the band put out an EP of Weakling cover songs. While the covers were brilliantly executed and did the American masters justice, it seemed odd. One would think a band with this much talent would put their efforts into composing their own material, working with original ideas and expanding. Let alone releasing a tape of covers can be risky, some may see it as a sign of unsureness and honestly I did.

Enter Plague Seed an album which was composed in 2009, according to an interview with the ever excellent Western Lamb. What Grst has brought us defies all worries I had about the bands potential for growth. An album that is characterized by its mastery and ambition. All three members of Grst have been in a litany of excellent projects linked to the Glossolalia family; the harsh noise wall act Willowbrook, the violent math-addled blackened crust of Banewreaker, and the hallucinogenic teach-death outfit Arkhum among a slew of others. The three musicians combine their obvious skill and knowledge of dark and heavy sounds to create something that will leave black metal devotees stunned and completely convinced.

Grst continues the American tradition of pushing the boundaries of black metal forward. Their style calls to mind Northwestern American luminaries and of course Weakling. Grst's vision, however, is far less limited in scope than many of their so called "Cascadian" counterparts. They play black metal that is completely immersed in the expansive nature of the transcendent style yet still retains a firm grasp on aggression and cathartic release. Take "Plague Seed" the album's opening track. While the riffs are cloaked in the mystical buzz of the mountainous Northwest there is lingering traces of pure devastation. The track itself is a furious blast-beat driven cathartic experience. Vocalist Kenneth Parker barks and screeches powerfully over the ripping aggression of both guitar and bass of Nathanael Kelley and Joshua Vincent.

Noise influence takes hold on the interlude track "Abandon" consisting of an airy, ominous drone accompanied by somber guitar. The track is calming and indicative of the moments of clarity exist throughout the album. This contemplative nature shows itself again during the opening minutes of "Pondering the Wastes." Twin guitars entwine their melodies and bring with them a sense of longing. This signals the torrential, mesmerizing riffing to come that is unleashed when the song begins to rip forward. The guitars continue to weave melodies as the track descends into a more aggressive state. The contrast Grst creates between moments of mournful reflection and driving rage is exactly what separates them from a slew of bands playing atmospheric black metal. The wide variety of emotional weight contained in the debut is overwhelming. Rage, mourning, tension, and release all exist within the onslaught. The musicianship exhibited by each of the bands three members is astounding, again showing self-assurance. Vocalist Parker is able to navigate between coarse rasps and hollow sounding growls with precision. Both Kelley and Vincent handle guitars and their work is equally impressive. Cascading riffs collide with one another creating the furious and meditative sound that emanates from the album.

Plague Seed took me by surprise. I in no way expected an album of this scope and magnitude. Ripping black fury is contrasted with sweeping and entrancing melodies, taking cues from a multitude of styles while still maintaining a sound that is completely Grst. Plague Seed is available from Glossolalia records in digital and vinyl formats here. If you are a fan of black metal either in its purest of forms or in its more expansive wanderings don't sleep on Grst.

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