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Griftegård - "Solemn, Sacred, Severe" (CD)

Griftegård - "Solemn, Sacred, Severe" CD cover image

"Solemn, Sacred, Severe" track listing:

1. Charles Taze Russell (9:29)
2. Punishment & Ordeal (11:39)
3. I Refuse These Ashes (7:32)
4. Noah's Hands (4:40)
5. The Mire (7:17)
6. Drunk with Wormwood (5:47)

Reviewed by on June 29, 2010

"The album is not for the meek, but those that live and breathe bands like Candlemass and Reverend Bizarre will find worthwhile material on 'Solemn, Sacred, Severe.'"

Swedish band Griftegård’s expertise is in the field of slow doom metal; not quite funeral doom slow, but menacing enough to justify the extended song lengths on the band’s debut album “Solemn, Sacred, Severe.” People expecting a fast-paced ride from beginning to end are better off turning around immediately, as they will be disappointed. None of the songs explode in ferocity, instead simmering in brutal heat until it almost becomes unbearable. The album is not for the meek, but those that live and breathe bands like Candlemass and Reverend Bizarre will find worthwhile material on “Solemn, Sacred, Severe.”

Time seems to be of no factor when looking at opener “Charles Taze Russell.” Taken from their 2007 EP “Psalm Bok,” the band actually makes the already-epic track even vaster. Each guitar riff, drum beat, and bass line is played as if it will be the last one before the end of humanity. The band seems to revel in this, not letting the temptation to pick up the pace take over. Heavy and sinister to a tee, the first song speaks volumes for the album.

However, the rest of the album isn’t as predictable. It may seem that way in the first half, as the band continues in this direction on the uber-ambitious “Punishment & Ordeal.” A wailing guitar lead and melodic break keep things from getting stale. Just as familiarity starts to sink in with “I Refuse These Ashes,” the band throws out an unlikely twist in the form of “Noah’s Hands.” The instruments are packed away and a simple organ melody is employed alongside brooding chanting. Sounding like a lost monk’s hymn from the 13th century, there is a majestic darkness to the track that resonates deep within the listener’s soul. Religious imagery is a key lyrical aspect not only to this track, but the album as a whole. Lines like “Days like pearls lined/in a necklace of pain/pearly gates to pain/open wide” emote feelings of betrayal and hostility that fit with the musical aspects.

Another surprise is with closer “Drunk with Wormwood.” The song starts out as a gentle piano ballad, driven by the gravelly vocals of Thomas Eriksson, before bringing in the rest of the band for a rousing finish. It’s a strong ending that hits the right emotional points. Eriksson has a large hand in this, as the early moments of the song could have dissolved into cheesy territory if not for Eriksson’s steady clean vocals. Eriksson does a solid job throughout the album, though he definitely tries too hard to sound passionate on “Punishment & Ordeal.”

“Solemn, Sacred, Severe” isn’t for the mainstream audience, but those with a fevered passion for the heavier side of doom metal will enjoy what Griftegård puts out on their debut. There is room for improvement in the vocal delivery and pacing departments, as the band has a tendency to get a little too grandiose for their own good. The inclusion of two off-beat tracks helps to keep the album balanced and both come off as more than just novelty numbers. Griftegård’s sound is familiar, yet “Solemn, Sacred, Severe” has a ping of originality to it that is enough to warrant a recommendation.

Highs: Solid piano and organ work on a few select tracks, slow-burning intensity, religious themes match together well with the doom metal sound.

Lows: Emotionally overwrought vocals, some pacing issues.

Bottom line: Epic doom metal that throws a few twists into the formula to keep things interesting.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 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)