Album Title: 
Release Date: 
Friday, May 31, 2024
Review Type: 

The legendary sword of Turin Turambar strikes again!

I think that Poland is one of the most important countries in Europe when it comes to Death Metal in general, yet this country houses some of the better Black Metal acts too. And I will never hide my passionate appreciation for Gurthang. All of their former releases do mercilessly belong to my favourite ones. So it made me quite excited to notice that Immortal Frost Productions announced to have their newest recording released once again. For a modest view on my personal (and okay, subjective) opinion about the partnership in between the band and the label, please check out the links below.

This new material – Martyrium is this band’s eighth album – has been recorded by the band at their trusted Exe Sound Studio, once more mixed and mastered at the Nomadic Arts Studio with co-member Alex ‘Turenn’ Snape (who takes care of bass-lines too as from now on, besides the drum parts). The album is available on compact-disc (500 copies with a 16-page booklet) and on vinyl (two types of color, both of them with A2-sized poster and a sheet with the lyrics as inside-sleeve). It consists of five tracks that have a duration of less than four up to almost fourteen minutes (total running time: 42:29 minutes). It does come with nice artwork (the cover drawing is called Saint, created by Rhyn Williams; layout and design were taken care of by band-leader A.Z.V.).

What strikes me as from the very first minutes is how ‘complete’ everything seems to sound again. As from the very start of opening hymn Aesthetics Of Solicitude, the listener might meet an immeasurably high wall, reaching towards the stars, looking like an all-surrounding whirlwind-of-noise. Yep, Gurthang do it again! Compared to the past, the band seems to go through a comparable stream, yet at the same time it’s another huge step forward, for the intensity did increase once more. Aesthetics Of Solicitude, which is the lengthiest track (13:49), represents majesty in sound and elegance in execution. The injection of Funeral Doom and Post-laden elements did increase, still based on a bleak platform of grim, dense and power-driven Black Metal. The opener starts somewhat sludgy in sound, which strengthens the doomed approach. Soon things turn into heavier proportions, with a superb equilibrium of all instruments involved. Okay, the professional production and mix too are responsible for that fine balance, yet every single detail sounds so clear: basses, drums, six-strings (and eventually the vocals too, evidently). Besides a layer of heaviness, caused by a monumental rhythm section, the whole gets characterized by gloomy, even intoxicating leading chords. It works hypnotic somehow. Admirable are the tremolo leads too, which offer captivating melodies, like the creation of prodigious harmonies. The support of the drum / percussion section of extremely important, for it alternates the whole of the time: from down-earthed and thunderous loops over rumbling patterns to merciless eruptions; it’s very characteristic yet it does work. Besides, at about eight minutes, things smoothly yet organically sort of fade into a mesmerizing chapter, semi-acoustic and ambient-laden (for some reason, Amenra come to mind), before transforming into a fragment of mostly divine Blackened Funeral Doom Epic à la very early Ahab. The last three minutes, then again, deliver monumental grooving bleakness, and the voices, with that enigmatic and secretive tang of demonic possession, add a hint of occultism and mystery.

That was just a brief description on the first track from Martyrium, and I haven’t reproduced yet all I wanted to write down about that first composition. Anyway, these superlatives do count as well for the four other epics on this album. Conundrum Unfolds is quite an intense piece, including harsher, faster excerpts. More than once, the drum parts are like artillery assaults, going extremely well with the inquisitive tremolo leads and the atrocious shouts, while Antithesis Of Creation is based on the most hellish dronework and purely sulfuric vocal molestation. Here too, the hypnotizing guitars and the permanent breaks and changes in tempo and texture are unworldly. Also, mind the ambient intermezzo towards the end, acting as an omen for some cinematic grande finale. Discernment comes with a mostly morbid atmosphere, and despite its short duration (03:36), it offers so many fine-tuned details, starting with that horrific (initially acoustic) intro. This kind of funereal doom and despair reflects visions of misanthropy and disgust. In Voidwards Begotten, finally, opens with a piano melody, focusing on a horrific theme, especially in combination with the dry, acid-injected and wretched voices, like a soundtrack for some short Horror story. After about two and a half minutes, strings and percussions join, as well as synths, slowly evolving, convincingly expanding, and finally erupting. There’s so much to discover -and to uncover- with harsh sequences, grooving parts, droning fragments and the return of these haunting grand piano excerpts.

Ah, each time when I listen to this album, new elements show up. Martyrium might be the most intense and overpowering Gurthang effort to date, and even-though it is my personal judgment, this might be an AOTY’ish thing. As from the first seconds of Aesthetics Of Solicitude up to the almost levitating final moment of In Voidwards Begotten, Martyrium is like one huge narrative of appalling bleakness and abyssal obscurity, yet also of candid finesse and unimpeded craftsmanship.