Label: Eternal Death
Bandcamp stream: Link
Late December/early January can feel like a bit of a lull for new music. It seems that everyone is looking back over the year, writing “best of” lists and such. So, it was a very pleasant surprise when US black metal band Grue got in touch, saying their new album Casualty Of The Psychic Wars had been released at towards the end of December. It was the first I’d heard of them and I’m very glad I did, as this release is superb.
Containing 5 tracks spread out over 35 minutes, the album begins with some furious, high-tempo black metal with very lofty aims. Clearly influenced by the likes of Absu as well as more typical Finnish and Scandinavian bands, the record wastes no time. The opening title track charges ahead, taking no prisoners and destroying all in its wake, and “Calling Down The Stars” follows in similar fashion, ensuring that there can be no doubt that this band mean business. Much like Absu at their best, there is a feeling of very tight control keeping all this chaos together. The guitars weave some excellent melodies over a very strong rhythm section – and it has to be said that the drums sound incredible, with the bass drum being a real kick in the chest – whilst the lyrics aim for the stars, in the same way that Inquisition do. The vocals are faintly reminiscent of mid-period Absu as well, though without the high-pitched calls that Proscriptor McGovern would punctuate songs with.
It’s far from being a one-dimensional assault though. A good sense of dynamics and pacing in the songs stops them from collapsing under their own weight or becoming one-dimensional, though the shift in tempo and style between the second track and instrumental third track “Lament Of The Spheres” is perhaps a bit too much to work as well as it could have. It’s a necessary change in tone in order to keep attention held and stop the album being that bit too exhausting, but I can’t help but feel that it’s too drastic a step. It does set up the almost doom beginning of the the fourth track well, however, and the shift from this slow opening to high-tempo black metal later on in the track is done very well. I do feel that a bit more time on the lyrics to this song would improve it vastly, though; the repetitions of “we are cursed” detract from what are otherwise good lyrics, and the song suffers as a result.
It’s with the final track “They Who Walk Behind The Skies” (a superb title, it must be said) that the band show the full extent of their capabilities, though. At almost 15 minutes long, it is one of the more ambitious black metal tracks I’ve heard in a while, and one of the more successful. After a thoroughly progressive opening, featuring keyboards and clean guitars amongst the drums and distortion, it takes on form as a thoroughly stellar high-tempo black metal, with enough changes and shifts to show that the band have the talent to match their ambition. What’s especially noteworthy is that the track never feels as long as it is, and runs no risk of out-staying its welcome as so many long tracks do. I’m not normally a fan of such long tracks, or of progressive influences in black metal, but the closing track ranks among my favourite black metal tracks of the year.
Casualty Of The Psychic Wars is an excellent, exciting record, and is well worth tracking down. The band say they’re hoping to get some European distributors to carry CD copies, but in the meantime it can be ordered from Eternal Death or Bandcamp. And if the band can build on the promise shown here, and get the attention they deserve, then their next release could well be an underground classic.