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Germ - "Grief" (CD)

Germ - "Grief" CD cover image

"Grief" track listing:

1. Intro
2. Butterfly
3. The Stain Of Past Regrets
4. Departures
5. Memorial Address
6. An End
7. Beneath The Cliffs
8. Blue As The Sky, Powerful As The Waves
9. How Can I?
10. I Can See It In The Stars
11. It's Over
12. Withering In Hell
13. Ghost Tree Pt. 3

Reviewed by on September 30, 2013

"'Grief' continues the Germ sound from previous releases, combining underground, atmospheric black metal with a variety of rock and electronic elements straight out of the iconic ‘80s."

Following the emotionally devastating and metallically innovative “Loss” EP, Germ has released a new full-length less than a year later. For those unfamiliar with this Australian project, Germ is essentially the definition of the term “avant-garde,” working together completely opposing forces in ways that will cause just about everyone’s heads to explode on the first listen. “Grief” continues the Germ sound from previous releases, combining underground, atmospheric black metal with a variety of rock and electronic elements straight out of the iconic ‘80s.

Although the “Loss” EP and preceding album, “Wish,” were stylistically very similar, “Grief” sees the band evolving more in a new direction. The music is still turbo charged with rocking non-metal elements from a few decades back, but the sound has shifted and there are several new elements in place. Most noticeably is the addition of female vocals from guest member Audrey Sylvain (Peste Noir, Amesouers) who makes her first appearance on “Butterfly.” The track is the heart of the album and the focus of the major introduction to the revamped style, utilizing upbeat rock guitars and piano segments with abrasive black metal.

Somehow the impact of two opposing styles colliding creates music that resonates emotionally while still being suitably heavy. “I Can See It In The Stars” in particular plays all the right melancholy chords for a surprisingly poignant experience. It works – and frankly very well - the majority of the time, with the only odd juxtaposition taking place on “Memorial Address,” where the two different sounds seem a little out of sync for the first half of the track. In addition to the black-meets-rock segments, the album also has tracks like “An End” and closer “Ghost Tree Part 3,” which go intensely atmospheric and ambient.

The main dividing point for metal fans on Germ releases is easily the presentation of the harsh vocals, which are just as insane as ever on “Grief.” If the high pitched, echoing screams didn’t work for you before, they aren’t likely to now. However, there’s less of a focus on these bizarrely awesome screeches this time around, so this album may hold more appeal if the vocals were a turn off before.

“Grief” is a much longer experience than “Loss,” at 13 full tracks, but the songs are generally varied enough that the album doesn’t experience much drag. The subtle but prevalent shift in style will be a welcome change for fans of previous releases, seeing the band grow without giving up its roots. If the strange concoction that is Germ blew your mind and expanded your musical horizons before, then this latest album is another must-hear offering. If you haven’t caught the infection yet, then “Grief” is well worth a try, it only to see just how truly diverse metal can be.

Highs: Germ's iconic style gets a subtle shift without losing focus.

Lows: There are a few parts where the mix of black metal and '80s rock don't fit perfectly.

Bottom line: "Grief" is another bizarre (but awesome) combination of diametrically opposed musical styles for fans of the most avant-garde sounds metal has to offer.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)