Cold is the winter serpents howl with ancient Swedish forms of blackened ritual weighing across my cracking frailties as if stung in sternum by Scorpius’ tail towards the heart of deleterious Orion. As needle pricking skin and scalpel’d orifice debrided of frozen decay a gory kiss thaws righteous rot, melts crushed capillary and surfaced sinew unto darkly red and blued failing flesh bleached by the storm of howling death. All cessation’s putrid feast thrives in chaotically piled crystalline clumps of men belittled by our wretchedly feeble adaptations. Penance to Zeus from indignant followers, mortals no longer cease prideful ways with no fear of the poison sting of the scorpion in the sky. Deaf to natural guide and cursed by moronic masterminded civilization no death is more welcome than the chilling light of he, the inebriated fire whirler, he the horned god cast into abyss of snow and crevice of ice. We of greed, the disciples of nothing, are sulking callous apes in acceptance of prescribed order; Twisted faceless bodies taunting one another with discolored bile and unimaginative violence in warmly infectious pits of mucosal feces and raw bacterial rage. May frost be the slowly suffered plague of eternity, a perfect preservative for the homogenized, self-inflicted monstrosities of man. This pestilential blast of ice needle and black flame shocking the mind into fear and torpor is the active embodiment of the rasping wolfen breath of svenske Luciferian occult melodic black metal mainstays Grafvitnir. With the presentation of their sixth full-length the Stockholm trio reach a new golden high, a fatal lightning strike upon the temple for the melodic black metal devout.
In other words, the Stockholm based project persists unhinged but unchanged beyond some increase in melodic focus today. So much of what I’d said when reviewing ‘Keys to the Mysteries Beyond’ (2017) is still relevant. The spirit of 1995 is ancient flame alight through memories of unholiness, that of ‘Storm of the Lights Bane’ and adjacent classics from Abigor, Marduk and Thy Primordial who would attack brutally while forming within the earliest waves of Swedish melodic black metal before cloying symphonic affect and effeminate guitar hero worship would dissipate the sub-genres power into meaningless thinness. This classic feeling and melodic focus is moon that would cause Grafvitnir to howl, spit flame, and riff under the gaze of the watchful eye of the glorious dead. Assumed guitarist Niantiel (Cursed 13, ex-Grá) brings composition thoughtfully melodic as it is characteristically relentless on what is an eight level descent into plutonian depths, a narrative heralding the dark arts of the underworld and beyond. Though Grafvitnir holds fast to their modus previous the ferality of ‘Venenum Scorpionis’ expresses with enhanced signature, offering a defining moment and escalating plateau for the projects discography that does not appear to bow to any pressures not self-applied.
Refined tremolo-picked melodies and a great gasping chamber of black metal rasp is absolutely enough to draw me into a melodic black metal album and hold my attention. I am just enough of a die-hard fan of the 90’s pre-symphonic era (Scandinavian or otherwise) that this sort of record is magnetic and thrilling no matter how many times I hear it. What then serves as the distinguishing factor between love and hatred frankly comes from the ‘riff’ values and how each expresses a melody. Many bands suggest melodic style and conjure ancient sound but few successfully complete any multi-arcing grandiose melodic statement without sputtering into trope. Because it arrives upon a Sacramentum level of quality, especially in terms of drum performance, ‘Venenum Scorpionis’ can be considered a special record for sub-genre specific fandom. It will read as 90’s styled Scandinavian black metal to the less specific black metal crowd with potential for meaningless surface-level examination, without a patient listen it will no doubt suggest itself as rote until proving otherwise. I felt this was also the case with ‘Keys to the Mysteries Beyond’ and it can’t be helped, Grafvitnir express as a traditional black metal band in terms of second wave Swedish black metal, melodic black metal, and their occult black metal sensibilities otherwise.
It becomes difficult to draw the line between a very good example of a sub-genre that I like and a lasting experience I might return to over the years, at least without more than a months analysis of a piece. My thoughts are at least formed enough that I can say I generally return to a band like Grafvitnir as often as I might Naglfar or Thy Primordial. That is to say that they will be a part of a reinforcing binge incited by a new melodic black metal release or a return to some old favorites. To love a piece of music as periphery enforcement is to both admit its brick-like status within a wall of fandom but also to appreciate the marvelous above the mediocre which I wouldn’t return to unless scouring the pile for educational purposes. ‘Venenum Scorpionis’ is -the- record from Grafvitnir I would now use to introduce new listeners to their growing discography, it is spacious and grand in its expression a wild but classicist melodic black metal example that is distinctly Swedish in tradition. As such I can highly recommend it as reinforcement for a collection of such things rather than a defining standard or newly forged left hand path. Highly recommended. For preview I would suggest the Necrophobic-esque “Ormeld” as an introduction, though the opener “Wolf of the Eclipse” is equally stunning; Beyond that point “Nocturnal Sun” felt like a beautiful point of entry for the ‘Far Away From the Sun’ addicted.
Black glistening carapace. 4.0/5.0
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