“Whatever happened to Gehenna?” has become a frequently asked question on discussion boards, shoutboxes and the like, and considering the Norwegians’ notorious tardiness (they’ve released just three albums since the turn of the millennium), one can’t really fault fans for wondering what just what the hell is going on with the band that once spearheaded the second tier of Norwegian Black Metal. Well, they have risen from their slumber to grace us with “Unravel”, their first effort since 2005’s “WW”, and the obvious question is whether it’s been worth the wait.
Hate me, but I can’t really answer that in the affirmative. Chalk it down to the long period of inactivity or the fact that mainman Sanrabb is now the only remaining original member, but “Unravel” is not exactly the kind of album that would see them (re)capturing the hearts and minds of the Black Metal faithful. Eight years and this is what they came up with?! ‘This’ being an album that’s as bone-dry and basic as it gets. Stylistically it’s follows closely in the vein of “WW”, but on that album I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt seeing as how it represented a return to blacker pastures after an ill-fated excursion into Death Metal territory on “Murder”. In 2013, however, this entry-level (and heavily Doom-encrusted) brand of BM sounds positively lazy.
Maddeningly slow and dreary, “Unravel” comes across as a collection of riffs pilfered from DARKTHRONE’s “Ravishing Grimness” sessions. It’s all very dark and hostile, I’ll give them that, and Sanrabb (who has at some point or another played every instrument in the band) turns in a requisitely grim vocal performance, but the lack of energy and dynamics is a worry. They manage to kick up a storm on the seething “Nine Circles of Torture” and the keyboard presence on “End Ritual” lends it an eerie atmosphere, but these moments of quality are few and far between. If you prefer your BM to be absolutely free of any frills then dig right in. I, on the other hand, will be giving “Seen through the Veils of Darkness” another listen.
(Online October 24, 2013)