Label: Carnal Records
A howling gale comes from the north, with razor-sharp winds that cut to the icy bone and chill to the core. Such is the sound of Grafvitnir, and the Swedish veterans demonstrate all their experience on fifth album Keys to the Mysteries Beyond. Built upon a foundation of Satanism, this album is black metal to the core, recalling the likes of Watain, Marduk, and hints of Dissection in its vicious attack, with just the right amount of dark melodies in the mix.
There is something timeless about the black metal presented on Keys to the Mysteries Beyond; it could have been written at any time between 1994 and now. This is both the greatest strength of the album, and its weakness. It is a joy to hear such orthodox, unapologetically blasphemous black metal played with such conviction, and the band are clearly very passionate about what they do. Yet at the same time, it is hard not to think of albums such as Marduk’s Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered whilst listening to Keys to the Mysteries Beyond. Despite this, the album stands up well to such lofty comparisons; it may bring classic records to mind, but it never feels inferior to them. As such, your enjoyment of the album will likely depend on how enthusiastic you feel about an album that sticks so closely to the blueprint of what Scandinavian black metal should be – vicious and unrelenting, yet with melodies that give the songs an almost catchy element.
Yet for those who have appetite for such a sound, it is hard to find fault with Keys to the Mysteries Beyond. Each song (excluding interlude tracks ‘Crossing the Abyss’ and ‘Journey into Storms’) are a Luciferian riot of blasts, frostbitten tremolo-picked leads, and blasphemous vocals. This is music of rituals conducted in moonlight woods; of sacrifice upon snowy mountain-tops; of evil spells conjured by hidden sects. It may not be breaking any new ground, but what it is doing is taking an established sound and injecting it with the passion and talent required for it to be exciting again. Keys to the Mysteries Beyond is the sound of a band who have honed their craft to near-perfection, and are unleashing a blackened storm upon the world.
Keys to the Mysteries Beyond is available via Carnal Records on Discogs.