I listen to a LOT of black metal. And generally speaking, I enjoy the greater majority of what I hear. It is rare for me to react negatively, but it is even rarer for me to stop what I’m doing and pay attention on a first spin. Honestly, when Gryftigaen’s new album, Fehunðyrdauðr, entered my review list, I expected more of the same raw, second-wave worship as their last release, Graven til Måneåpenbaringer. (Rread our review here). I did not expect an occult journey through tangible realms of shadow and despair along the lines of Leviathan’s classic The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide or Xasthur’s Subliminal Genocide. Colour me VERY pleasantly surprised and more than a little disturbed, in the very best sense of the word. Gone is the dedication to low-fidelity DIY recording, as are the more clichéd tropes of the genre: instead, these are replaced with delicate choral overlays, melodies teetering on the very edge of utter dissonance that wouldn’t be out of place on a Blut Aus Nord record and violent shifts in mood that drag you into deeper absorption.
The vocal delivery of sole member Lord Valtgryftåke is probably the least evolved element of the production – but that’s not a bad thing. The deranged gutturals and drawling groans are still front and center, grinding grit into the proceedings, but somehow still ebbing and flowing organically, weaving through the wall of sound (an approach well-used by the likes of Taake and Gaahls WYRD) to add dimension and depth. The net result is one of full-body immersion, where the aural faculty overrides all other senses and plunges you into the ritualistic maelstrom Gryftigaen has crafted, making you less listener than sacrificial victim.
As usual, we have Inferna Profundus to thank for their generous sharing of the full album stream.
The greatest drawback to the album is that there is no clear standout “single” to celebrate; try as I might, the seven songs blur and merge into one 40-minute opus, a true hymn to darkness, hatred and terror. At the same time, though, this is the true magic of Fehunðyrdauðr – it casts its spell so completely and inescapably that escape never enters into the listener’s head, hauling you bodily through corridors of death and delight, yet somehow thrusting you back into the waking world upon the closing strains of “Eiðr Myrkr” a renewed, revitalized being. In fact, it’s only the briefest moment of absolute silence separating “Crossing Through the Pillars of Azazyl” from the downtempo crushing weight of “Drowned in a Rising Sun” that gives any pause or relief from the seemingly endless waves of emotional trauma.
The Portuguese powerhouse Gaerea describes their sound as “cathartic black metal” and Gryftigaen are well-positioned with Fehunðyrdauðr to enjoy the same classification. This record is an absolute masterpiece, and easily the crowning glory of Chile’s inner circle of Pure Raw Underground Black Metal Plague. For a sophomore release after only two active years, Gryftigaen has an inspiring (there is no way I can use the term ‘bright’ without drowning in irony) future to look ahead to.
Fehunðyrdauðr Track Listing:
3. Sacrament of Phosphorescence
5. Crossing Through the Pillars of Azazyl
6. Drowned in a Rising Sun
7. Eiðr Myrkr
Run Time: 40:19
Release Date: March 1, 2022
Record Label: Inferna Profundus