Unless you’d found your self paying particularly close attention to the space between Therion and Thrash AD in Daniel Ekeroth‘s ‘Swedish Death Metal’ (2008) book, or if you’re a particular fanatic for Sarcasm-related projects, you’ve not likely heard of Third Storm. This despite their status as one of few teenaged Bathory and Hellhammer inspired black metal bands from Sweden in the mid-80’s along with Obscurity and Mefisto. After two years of failure and reportedly suck-ass riffing the band parted ways in 1988. Drummer Jörgen Sigfridsson was one of two notable ex-members in creating the Heavy Rock fanzine and a few small labels. The other fellow worth mentioning, founding member and vocalist Heval Bozarslan, would go on to form cult death metal legends Sarcasm two years later. Faced with a second collapse after four years of work on his second project, Bozarslan wouldn’t resurrect his original vision of Third Storm until 2014.
The actual formation of Third Storm is perhaps even more interesting than the first EP they released in 2015. ‘Tarîtîya Me’ certainly had a curious mix of styles as it blended blackened death metal with death/doom metal yet Bozarslan‘s infamously intense vocals felt like tangents in front of a band unsure if they were Head of the Demon or Dawn. This was likely due to the eclectic line-up at the time between members of Usurpress (Daniel Ekeroth himself), Doom:VS (Johan Ericson), and a father-son guitar duo with original guitarist Jimmy Eriksson and his son, Anguish founder David Eriksson. The lean towards death/doom begins to make sense with this line-up. With Sarcasm reforming that same year the focus was quickly on their back catalog and new full-length for the next couple of years. In the interim Hasse Hansson (ex-Die Hard) would step in on second guitar and drummer Alvaro Svanerö (Imperial Domain, Sarcasm) would arrive soon after. This line-up change would drastically change the scope and sound of Third Storm as Ericson‘s drumming and production in the past was more tuned towards doom metal sensibilities. Because of these key line-up changes ‘The Grand Manifestation’ is a wholly different beast than the EP that came before it.
While it may appear that there are still too many cooks in the kitchen creating Third Storm the reality is that each component of ‘The Grand Manifestation’ bears a redeeming and varietal extreme metal characteristic that enables the performances to quickly shift between blackened death/thrash, melodic black metal, and death/doom metal. The understated mix appears quiet and almost flimsy, a bit like a later Deathwitch record, at first but with the volume cranked closer to ten it’ll become clear that Third Storm are easing into a long and involved concept album surrounding otherworldly fiction written by Bozarslan. With many pages of the large insert dedicated to extrapolating themes of duality and existentialist grey area the bizarre tale acts as a novella and a remarkable gateway to the listening experience. In reading through the booklet’s story and following the lyrics while listening I found the music that much more engrossing; This is a somewhat rare amount of context for the typically cryptic fiction of black/death metal releases, where suggestion often acts as world building. Because of this, I think a physical copy of this record is entirely necessary.
As a huge fan of Sarcasm (particularly ‘A Touch of the Burning Red Sunset’ demo these days) it was easy to come in expecting Bozarslan‘s Dissection-tinged sensibilities to also bleed into this black metal forward project but if anything I would point towards Dawn‘s Slaughtersun era with long and twisted riffing sections that often resolve into big, stomping refrains. It is their own sound, though, and you’ll understand those comparisons in the ground covered between the doom-slugged pace of “The Third Thought From the Sun” and the intricate, ripping leads of “Through the Eyes of the Omnipresent”. Without some scar tissue built in the mind from years of listening to ‘old school’ (’90-’96) melodic black metal the subtle melodies driving Hansson‘s additional influence on the guitar work will need time to sink in. In fact I was so thrilled by the guitar work and overall sound of ‘The Grand Manifestation’ that it took a few listens to see the overall flow of the album was slightly obstructed by the tracklist arrangement.
“The Third Thought From the Sun” was the clear choice for the opener as it fits nowhere else, “Through the Eyes of the Omnipresent” should be sandwiched between “Gorakaathuar” / “As the Stars Watched the Birth of Eternity”, and “Forgotten Deity” is the perfect track to kick off Side B. If they’d arranged the album with some better sense of the compositional relationships within it’d have flowed more like the type of mid-to-late 90’s melodic black/death metal record it generally resembles (see: Dawn ‘Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy)’, Unanimated ‘Ancient God of Evil’, Necromass ‘Abyss Calls Life’). While it isn’t a huge dent in the overall package, I don’t think the tracklist flows as well as it could. Taken in pieces and examined for countless hours ‘The Grand Manifestation’ is a glorious autopsy of semi-melodic black metal with a strong narrative voice. When quantifying the value of the entire experience of this grand first Third Storm full-length I have to suggest that it grows with time and certainly does nothing overt to draw in the attention of the listener upon first glance. No doubt a full listen (or three) is required to absorb and process the entirety of ‘The Grand Manifestation’ and because this is the sort of listening experience that tends to stick around longest I can highly recommend it. For preview I’d suggest “Forgotten Deity” to get a sense of the slight extreme doom nuances and Dawn resemblance I’d insisted upon as well as “As the Stars Watched the Birth of Eternity” so that you can quickly plant your feet within the scorched earth of melodic black metal’s primeval era.
Vortices of altered prescience. 4.0/5.0
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