GRAVEWORM go into the fourth round and with Nuclear Blast they now have found a big label to take them up after their last label Last Episode folded in on itself a while back. Already in the past they had a quite formidable taste in cover art, I do not know, who did the excellent artwork for "When Daylight's Gone", but after that we had Dragon Design and Luis Royo and for "Engraved In Black" they (or the label) relied on the trusted skills of Swedish master Kristian Wĺhlin, great start and a great continuation of this tradition!
Also style wise the eight own compositions of "Engraved In Black" stand in the tradition of their earlier works, we still get very melodic Black Metal with varied vocals and keyboards, with the only exception that the overall speed has been raised a bit compared to earlier works, but this does not take away anything from the overall melodic atmosphere of the album. If you now wonder, why I talk about "eight own compositions", but there are nine tracks, a little patience, my friend, I will come to that a bit later.
The opener "Dreaming Into Reality" bears all the trademarks of the sound of the South Tyrolians, heavy, but epic, an extreme voice, but at the same time highly melodic riffs and keyboards, the opposites truly attract in this song. "Legions Unleashed" then shows quite impressively the newly found speed, because at the beginning the five folks set a tremendous pace, which we had not known of GRAVEWORM before, but it would not be GRAVEWORM, if they did not offer us some excellent calm and atmospheric breakdowns amidst the guitar driven frenzy.
"Thorns Of Desolation" is a very atmospheric instrumental, only consisting of drums, keyboards and keyboard effects (like bagpipes), a very nice change to the intense music the Italians provide us with otherwise. Now let's lift the veil of secrecy about this "other" song… "Losing My Religion" it is. If the title strikes a bell, then the opening seconds will make this bell resound loudly, because it indeed is a cover version of the R.E.M. classic, even though apart from a few elements it is rather hard to recognise that it is this song in fact, because the Metalized version including Stefan Fiori's mean vocal chord attack makes it more sound like a GRAVEWORM track than anything else. Very good one still!
Speaking of Stefan Fiori, he had been the target of quite some attacks throughout the years as pushing the band close to the sound of CRADLE OF FILTH. Now he does have a variable voice, which can jump from a high Black Metal shriek (but do not fear, he never gets as extreme as Dani, thankfully) to a deep Death Metal growl, always depending on what the song requires, which is a plus in my book as many vocalists in the extreme regions of Metal fail, where vocal variety is concerned, most of them miserably.
All of this once again results in a highly interesting album in the realms of Melodic Black Metal and despite the band once being labelled as cross between CRADLE OF FILTH and CREMATORY, you cannot deny that they by now have found their own sound, which is something that is worth so much in today's scene! So if you feel inclined towards these sounds, go and check out "Engraved In Black", maybe you are even lucky and get the limited DigiPak with "It's A Sin" as bonus track! (Online July 12, 2003)