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At long last, black metal band Nihill has issued Grond, the second part (following 2007's Krach) in their trilogy of albums dealing with Gnosticism, philosophical abstraction (from Martin Heidegger to Georges Bataille), and the subject of death. Sonically, this Norwegian unit touches on many aspects of the 21st century blackened metal: their sound feels like a cross -- in some respects -- of the buzzing abstraction and speed of Deathspell Omega and the sludgiest, doomiest bombast of Sunn 0))), but there is more than that, with the music becoming almost improvisational in its experimentation à la Blut Aus Nord and S.V.E.S.T., as is showcased here. Four long tracks -- the shortest of which is over 11 minutes -- comprise a suite. Thematically, the song titles reveal plenty and create their own sort of Black Metal Book of the Dead: "Aard: The Fermentation of Sol and Luna in the Black Foliated Earth"; "Antimoon: Concerning the Dead, the Coffin’s Fire Slow But Eternal"; "Vacuum: The Complexity of Entering the Vaults of Death"; and "Pulsus: Sailing the Great Cosmic Sea of Chaos." Serious stuff. Hydra Head Records -- the label that issued this (and reissued Krach in the United States) -- also printed a deluxe little booklet with all the lyrics in a typeface that can actually be read. But it’s the music that ultimately matters, and this cacophony has so much going on in its muddy mix that it’s hard not to get lost in the pure pulsing swirl of it all. Guitars buzz and reverberate against their own din; the basslines are basic but low-tuned and punishing; drums seems to dominate and they roll, crack, and blast without cessation as one track bleeds into another. Strange dynamics from utterly in-the-red distortion, crackle, and hum give way to repetitive bits of ambience and hypnotic single-string guitar patterns (not solos), and noise that feels almost like Merzbow ("Antimoon"). The strange wandering nightmare that is Grond is unlike anything else in metal. The spoken word bits ("Antimoon" and "Pulsus"), rather than sounding corny or affected, come across as extremely serious, disturbing, and poetic. This is the bleak void of black metal. It knows where its origins are, but knows not where it ends because there are no limits placed by Nihill on the music; it goes where it needs to and makes no compromises in its (lack of) production. Grond leaves the listener much as Krach did -- wanting more, much more, and anxiously awaiting the final part of this trilogy.

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