In the early days of the second wave of black metal, Norway had its Helvete-based “Black Metal Inner Circle” and France had it “Les Légions Noires” to discourage mainstream reception to the underground nature of the trve kvlt. These tight-knit, closed groups were – from an outside perspective – dangerous hotbeds of militant and occult activity when in reality they were just angry kids making obnoxious music. Chile draws inspiration from these, however, with its own affiliation of black metal artists, the “Pure Raw Underground Black Metal Plague circle,” and Gryftigæn is a central force in all this.
Their first record – Graven til Måneåpenbaringer – reflects this perfectly. Not only is its concept – death worship, black sorcery and primitivism – exactly what typified so many of the early second wave releases, but the vehicle through which the duo express these themes is a verbatim revisiting of the low-fi, simplistic and unpolished production techniques of the likes of Mayhem or Mütiilation. Then there’s the cover art – a poorly Xeroxed black-and-white photograph of the corpsepainted mastermind behind Gryftigæn (Lord Nbl Dmn III, the artist formerly known as Lord Valtgryftåke) bearing a sword – that is lifted directly from a Deathlike Silence demo tape. In fact, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Graven til Måneåpenbaringer is less an album than a love letter.
This is how it begins. And it just gets better.
The five ritualistic offerings on Graven til Måneåpenbaringer are, however, executed so convincingly that the barefaced appropriation of black metal’s ancient history can be entirely forgiven. Yes, based purely on audio quality the tremolo picking is on a dime-store guitar, the drums were found in a Christmas cracker, and the whole thing was recorded through two cans on a string, but it’s all connected by such a commanding vocal presence dredged from an abyssal septic tank that you can’t help but believe. And want more. Five songs, one of which, “Crossing the Venomous Ritual,” is given over largely to an instrumental introduction, is enough to arouse the appetite without taking it to bed afterwards. At least the majority of songs run towards the longer format, the shortest of which (“Sarcophagical Black Sorcery”) still clocks in at over seven minutes.
The other aspect of the album that may get lost in the unpolished final product is the theme: while occultism and forbidden ritual practices have long been associated with the more extreme end of metal, Gryftigæn joins a select few bands that actually make their devotion to the darker arts a tangible and believable thing. Multitudes of acts may flirt with Satanism and evil, but then you get the likes of Mephorash, Enthroned or Cult of Fire, who all create convincing musical enactments of their belief structures. And Gryftigæn can now be counted amongst these. In fact, given the combination of DIY production and ancient mysticism, the aptest comparison that can be drawn with Gryftigæn would be with Black Funeral (whose last record, Scourge of Lamashtu, was reviewed here).
So, if your sad spirits are better lost and forgotten within a funeral fog, then Graven til Måneåpenbaringer is exactly the album you’ve been missing. Gryftigæn are reliving the second wave’s glory days, and within their circle 2020 isn’t just another year, it’s the 27th annual celebration of Euronymous’ ascension to another realm of existence.
Graven til Måneåpenbaringer Track Listing:
1. Crossing the Venomous Ritual
2. Sarcophagical Black Sorcery
3. Fatidic Manifestation of Azael`s Blood
4. Circle of Twofold Attraction
5. Nightside of the Eye of Seth
Run Time: 41:21
Release Date: 23 November 2020
Record Label: Inferna Profundus Records