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Avant Garde

Gravetemple – Impassable Fears Album Review

Initially formed in 2006, Gravetemple was the result of an intriguing meeting of minds. Oren Ambarchi is well known from his ventures in off-kilter music, either through his own project or collaborating with acts and artists like Christian Fennesz, Keiji Haino. Merzbow and Jim O’Rourke. One of his very frequent collaborators is drone duo Sunn O))), featuring Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson. Ambarchi and O’Malley meet again in Gravetemple, alongside Attila Csihar, known from his works with proto-black metal band Tormentor, and first wave Norwegian black metal act Mayhem. Csihar, a shamanistic figure with a tendency for experimentation completes the trio, which released The Holy Down full-length in 2007, and since then have slightly fallen off the radar.

The band’s return with Impassable Fears breeds an air of anticipation, boosted significantly due to the string of excellent free form releases that Ambarchi and O’Malley have participated in the last couple of years, such as Nazoranai with Keiji Haino and Shade Themes from Kairos alongside Randall Dunn. Gravetemple is obviously different from the aforementioned records in its primal and destructive ability. Free form and doom are not known to mix, however the weight of O’Malley guitars and the fluid drumming of Ambarchi, coupled with Csihar’s grand performance bring a unique specimen to the table.

Label: Svart Records

The free rock form always tends to break boundaries, existing in a space of complete improvisation, where anything is possible. Any strange note, any out of time drumbeat is acceptable as long as it adds to the flow of the work. This essence is taken to its extremes with the addition of the heavy guitars and extreme potential. In essence, Impassable Fears encompasses the cataclysmic qualities of free form music, by adding the heavy drone and doom characteristics, resulting in an ultimate dystopian setting. Harsh and relentless, not for the faint of heart, Ambarchi and O’Malley present their sonic dialogs in awe-inspiring fashion, organically moving through a space of endless possibilities.

In the center of it all is Csihar’s vocals, which add to the otherworldly scenery. What Csihar performs here is a modern version of Shamanism, drawing influence from the Hungarian tradition, in an attempt to bridge the material world with the spiritual domain. As a result, the record as a whole presents a mantra-like theme. Through the brutal and unyielding manifestation, arises a deep philosophical concept, presented through a primal and animalistic scope, as Csihar’s vocal delivery morphs from deep monk-like chants and echoing throat-singing, to heavy growls and ear shuttering squeals.

Impassable Fears describes mankind’s most basic fear on the most primal and reptilian level. The trio regresses into that space in an Altered States fashion, producing a work that projects this inherent human part, one that everyone deep down remembers. Through the free form improvisation of O’Malley and Ambarchi and the chants of Csihar, Gravetemple reintroduce the terrifying concept of mortality, a fear that at times even if it can be temporarily forgotten, it remains forever present.

Written By

Sound engineer, sonic manipulator, record hunter and writer/contributor for a variety of webzines.

Sentient 51423

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