The concept of the “release cycle” is one of the most inconsistent aspects of modern music. While we’re still awaiting albums announced early last quarter with fanfare and multiple lead singles, here we have Griefloss dropping their latest self-titled album after just a series of veiled teasers. This isn’t the time or place to dive into the larger issue surrounding this trend, but personally, I’ve always favored the practice of simply dropping new music out of the blue. With so much emphasis put on image, context and anticipation these days, it’s refreshing to have an album command your attention by the simple virtue of being new music from a great band overdue for another release.
Griefloss fits that description perfectly, what with their criminally underrated 2014 debut Ruiner being one of the best black metal albums of that year. The band pull from depressive and post-black blueprints while also taking cues from the rock-oriented aspects of post-rock. The results are almost like a younger, leaner Lantlôs, with the black metal rawness amplified just a bit more. Now, five years later, Griefloss return with a self-titled sophomore album that continues the success of these ideas while exploring some new ground which runs naturally from where they once stood. This leads the band to make yet another early contender for one of black metal’s best offerings of the year.
At the onset of the album, “Anneliese” might prompt you to re-check the tags on the album’s Bandcamp page. Other than some blackened tinges toward the end, Griefloss chose to open the album with a rock-leaning track heavily informed by sweeping melodies that more closely resembles doomgaze. Both vocally and musically, the track falls somewhere between Jesu and Falloch in its dedication to creating a massive swell of beautiful, emotive riffs held up by steady, powerful drumming. On subsequent listens, it’s clear that the track acts as the perfect introduction for the album by painting the tone of the proceedings while building up to the following black metal assault.
The initial notes of “Blood Flashing” officially kick off the depressive black metal portrait Griefloss paint across the entire album. Impenetrable minor key riffs dominate the track across every tempo change, setting a stomping, heavy tone initially and then thundering over galloping blasts. The band take on a sludgier, crust-influenced approach with “God is Hell,” with some genuinely heavy riffs intertwining with melancholic chord progressions and pounding kick patterns. On these tracks and the bulk of the album, Griefloss demonstrate how to effectively produce mid-paced black metal, relying on atmosphere, riffs and driving percussion to build an alluring mood rather than leaning on shredding tremolos and throughly pummeeld snare drums.
Perhaps more surprising than the album’s opening is its penultimate track “Total Hate.” The song is a mostly electronic composition reminiscent of Bliss Signal‘s electro-tinged blackgaze, albeit with a more contemporary feel. It’s another example of Griefloss approaching structural cliches like intros and interludes with a mindset of exploration. Finally, the band unleashes its grand finale with the epic “For Decades,” a truly Jesu-inspired song with a heightened focus on post-rock builds and crescendos along with a vibrant, snarling edge. It’s an apt ending for an album full of surprises and unique moments uncharacteristic of the genre, though they’re certainly not unwelcome.
Again, all of these words flowed from an organic, unaffected experience with Griefloss that became increasingly impressive and enjoyable with each new listen. Though the band’s talent and potential has been obvious since Ruiner, it was impossible to predict just how much the group would grow between releases and the heights they’d be soaring above on their sophomore outing. It may be too early to crown the band with any accolades, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better piece of black metal to kick of the new year with.
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Griefloss is available now via the Bandcamp link above.