Ván Records so far have been almost exclusively known for their Black Metal releases, so their appeal to me has been, to say the least, fairly limited, so that when the promo “Solemn, Sacred, Severe” by Swedish newcomers GRIFTEGÅRD (old Swedish for graveyard, if you translate literally it means something like “grave garden”) arrived, I was not really hell bent to listen to it right away. I actually have no idea why I listened to it at all, but I sure has hell am glad that I did, because it further underlines my conviction that 2009 is the year of Doom Metal. As of now I have six Doom releases in the Top 20 of the year with MY DYING BRIDE, CANDLEMASS, ISOLE, THE PROPHECY, NOVEMBERS DOOM and now also GRIFTEGÅRD.
So a relatively new band GRIFTEGÅRD are (founded in 2004), but the members already have experience with bands such as WOLVERINE, BOKOR, SPETÄLSK and others, so greenhorns they are not. So I had mentioned that this Norrköping based quintet plays Doom and it is right how I like it – slow, epic, with great vocals and a very dense atmosphere. Singer Thomas Eriksson has a strong and expressive voice that still has some grit in it, though, which works excellently with the heavy riffing and slow-motion tempos, adding character to already very emotional songs that in many cases deal with guitarist Ola Blomkvist’s battle with religions. Prior to “Solemn, Sacred, Severe” GRIFTEGÅRD had seen the release of the “Psalm Bok” EP back in 2007, of which opener “Charles Taze Russell” also made it onto the full-length debut.
Odd title, you think? So did I, so a little research brought to light that Mr. Russell had been an American pastor that laid the foundation for what would turn out to be Jehovah's Witnesses (and Ola was born into a family of Witnesses, so not as odd anymore), but as I am not sure that I can correctly interpret his lyrics I will refrain from doing so (and check with him) and concentrate on the music instead. So yes, Doom it is, with this unique emotive energy that only this style can convey and "Charles Taze Russell"'s nine and a half minutes are enough to suck me into the vortex of GRIFTEGÅRD's music with the doomsday like riffing and Eriksson's adjuratory and at times almost sacral voice over it, this is the stuff that goosebumps are made of! And if you still feel too happy, move right on into "Punishment & Ordeal", because now we have fully reached the stage of molten lava making its way down the volcano, crushing everyone and everything in its path, heavy and pounding, but with a very calm centre piece that completely changes the dynamics of the song, before returning to the viscous heaviness from before.
I don't claim that GRIFTEGÅRD are a highly original act, hardly any Doom Metal band manages to justly put that banner up, but the conviction, the emotiveness and the combination of heaviness and melodies into a dense atmosphere is what makes "Solemn, Sacred, Severe" such a big success with me. I had used the word "sacral" before and "Noah's Hands" is exactly that, a soft choir chanting over some organ and keyboard sounds.
"Solemn, Sacred, Severe" definitely is not an album that will open up without actually actively listening to it as a whole several times, because it will not yield the immediate gratification that some listeners may look for (even in Doom), but if you even remotely like this style, I urge you to give GRIFTEGÅRD the attention and time they deserve, because this is one hell of an album!
(Online December 21, 2009)