Label: Avantgarde Music
Release Date: January 13th, 2023
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Sweden’s Grá are somewhat of a supergroup, featuring members of Dark Funeral, Veiled, Godhead Machinery and more. The years of industry experience and professionalism accumulated between its members is on full display with the band’s latest offering Lycaon.
The four-piece present us with a classic style of Swedish black metal that will remind listeners of acts such as Dimmu Borgir, Naglfar, Satyricon, Khold, etc. The band have taken a different approach on this album stripping back a number of elements that were used prominently on their previous release, including keyboards, orchestral parts, acoustic guitars and choir arrangements. In doing so the band have given themselves the challenge to engage the audience and creating an equally as full sound using far less elements. For me personally I think that they managed to pull this off.
The focus on songwriting and musicianship rather than textures and layers gives the release a more traditional and minimalistic approach and allows the vocals to really shine in the mix. The band transition from symphonic black metal into the melodic realm, in the process stripping back its structural complexity and replacing it with bombastic energy and some truly catchy black ‘n’ roll style rhythms and riffs. This shift in focus gives the release an additional head banging factor and seems as if it would translate extremely well live.
Heljarmadr is a name that should need no introduction to most black metal fans as he has been the vocalist for legendary act Dark Funeral for the better part of a decade. His style is a fantastic blend between raw, aggressive and understandable, making it work extremely well with instrumental work of this nature. I also appreciate that the lyrics are a mix of both English and Swedish, as I love hearing Scandanavian languages used in black metal, they just carry the tones differently and have a bite to them that English doesn’t.
Instrumentally the guitar work on the release is extremely well performed and strikes a balance between melody and aggression. The riffs are extremely catchy and carry plenty of rhythm but have a bite to them still that gives the music an edge. The drums and bass work operate in the same manner, striking a fantastic balance that will please fans of both melodic and harsher, rawer styles of black metal.
Overall, I think that the album is a solid offering that will fit perfectly into the collection of anyone that enjoys melodic black metal. Heljarmadr’s vocals are perfectly paired with no frills melodic black metal sure to bring fans back time and time again.
Listen to and order the album: