It wasn’t until about 2008 or so that I really started getting into doom metal. But once I get into something, I go full bore. So I bought and listened to every doom metal record I could get my hands on, loving every minute for a while. During this time I found myself drifting into drone a little bit as well – and a year or so later I found myself thinking all doom was the same and moving strictly into the drone world. After going full bore with that for quite a while as well, I decided to take a little break from both and refresh myself a little bit as everything started sounding the same to me. It’s sort of the perils of these sort of narrow genres of music. There’s only so far you can push the sound before it seems like you’ve tried everything already.
Fortunately, the time off seems to have worked very well for me as Solemn. Sacred. Severe. by Swedish doom metalists Griftegard really hit me like a ton of bricks.
The word Griftegard is Swedish for a churchless graveyard and “solemn, sacred and severe” represents the atmosphere within that burial ground. And boy, did these guys create the perfect soundscape to portray that. The album is filled with immense dark riffs and an overall spiritual message.
Shutting my eyes during my first listen took me to a funeral service, standing on the side as the procession goes by, weeping in a graveyard as one-by-one roses get put on a casket, then banging on the ground in anger for a fallen spirit. “Noah’s Hand” goes a long way to help that vision, as it’s an organ and choir based track that’s as moving as any song I’ve heard in ages. That’s followed up with an immense wall of sound about losing your soul to “The Mire”. Lyrics like, “With hearts like holes/we wander in confusion/our famished souls/wallow in delusions” are simply a mind fuck. The most captivating track on the album however is the final one, “Drunk with Wormwood”. It starts off as a stark piano-driven ballad and half-way through pounds you with the low-end guitars while the narrative of “Jesus is dying in my heart/while Judas lingers on/my heart has broken down/pumping end time rhymes” portrays a man pondering his life of lies at the point where he’s given up on God and God has given up on him.
With just a wonderful blend of doom, atmospherics an a genuinely thought provoking narrative, Solemn. Sacred. Severe. has to be one of the most moving metal records I’ve heard in a long while. The really nice thing about it is that I get the feeling the end result was the vision they had from the start. It feels like an album that completely hit its mark on all cylinders. I don’t usually like to call things masterpieces after just one listen or even at all (unfortunately, I tend to hunt down flaws in things) but this is a truly perfect slab of metal and easily moves into my top slot for the release of the year.