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Grá - Lycaon Award winner

by David Hough at 07 March 2023, 5:32 AM

The Swedish black metal band, GRÁ, released their fourth full-length album earlier this year. The frontman, Heljarmadr, is also the vocalist for their black metal contemporaries, DARK FUNERAL. The title, “Lycaon,” refers to an ancient king who Zeus made into the first werewolf. Let’s see if this album’s all bark and no bite. “Lycaon” opens with the energetic “White City Devil.” This one sets the stage for the way the album sounds. Dimman’s ballistic percussion coupled with Heljarmadr’s raspy, yet surprisingly legible, shouting let you know that you’re in for a hell ride. This is expert-level black metal. It’s fun, it’s abrasive, and it’s energetic. The lead guitar solo and use of tremolo picking are also high points.

Lycaon” bobs and weaves from thrash to black metal several times. There is plenty of speed and intensity on display. I like my metal fast and dirty and this song delivers on both counts. The blast beats and authoritative vocals are major highlights. The sheer speed and technicality of this song will put a fire in your blood. GRÁ also included a cover of the BATHORY song, “Chariots Of Fire.” They accomplished the tough task of making their version more modern, while still respecting the song’s roots, right down to the eerie chamber music introduction. GRÁ’s version reminded me more of SLAYER’s “Born Of Fire,” than the original recording. It serves as an excellent tribute to black metal’s first wave.

ETT AVSKEDSBREV” reminds me of RAMMSTEIN. It is still very much a black metal song, but the bouncing rhythm and marching beat, along with the chanting during the chorus have some serious RAMMSTEIN vibes. Vediger’s bass playing is out of control in the best way possible. Also, the instrumental interlude will surely draw the attention of any black metal fan. The meat of the final track, “Jaw Of The Underworld,” consists of an excellent drum solo from Dimman, punctuated by foghorn sounds. Later on, the drum beats echo while the guitars and horn section are added to the mix. I’m not usually a fan of instrumental outros, but “Jaw Of The Underworld” is simply compelling. The track ends with a vocal recording sample in Swedish. I have no idea what is said, but it fits the song’s atmosphere.

The only downside for me is the lack of innovation. GRÁ stays comfortably in their lane throughout the entirety of “Lycaon.” Not every band needs to push the boundaries of their subgenre, but it would have been nice to hear something that isn’t so safe. That being said, there isn’t a bad song on the album, and it has gotten regular play from me since it dropped.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. White City Devil
2. Flame of Hephaestus
3. Torn Asunder
4. Lycaon
5. Chariots of Fire
6. Ett Avskedsbrev
7. Brännmärkt
8. Jaw of the Underworld
Dimman - Drums
Heljarmadr - Guitars, Vocals
Vediger - Bass
Niklas - Guitars
Fredrik - Guitars
Record Label: Avantgarde Music


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