Yes as far as germs are concerned this is probably the only one that is welcome as I am sitting coughing and spluttering away as I write this. Not that it is any less virulent when it comes to invading the system and taking you over as Australian Tim Yatras the man behind this project and previously the likes of Austere, Grey Waters Nazxul, Woods Of Desolation etc sure knows how to pen a great tune. In the last couple of years I was already pretty much blown away by previous releases Wish and Loss and was very happy to once again have new album Grief to get to grips with. It is a pretty damn monstrous album too in many respects, not least the fact that it weighs in at a whopping 69 minutes.
The way Tim works with Germ is fusing two almost opposing forms of music together, on the one hand almost pop laden instrumentation with anthem etched addictiveness alongside rabid blood- curdling primeval black metal shrieks. It all works fantastically and is counterbalanced by clean vocal croons too just to add depth and colour. We start with first track proper (after a floating in space intro) ‘Butterfly’ fluttering its wings but it is surprisingly not Tim who at first provides the vocals but the unmistakable and gorgeous voice of Audrey Sylvain of Amesoeurs and Peste Noir. It’s possibly the fact that I have not heard her for a while that these vocals send a shiver down my spine and it could be the fact that this strikes as a match made in heaven but her lilting and placating tones are gorgeous and when she too unleashes a feral scream it’s nothing short of breath-taking. Naturally around it the spiky musical jangle is equally brilliant taking in a post Indie fervour but moving at a really fast and furious velocity. Piano tinkles in giving it another texture and the combined weight of everything melodiously flung violently together is enough to floor me and it should be noted that this is just the first proper song!
Even when depressive strains enter the picture as on ‘The Stain Of Past Regrets’ with anguished screams tearing things apart too, it still sounds paradoxically uplifting and jubilant and there is such a joy de vivre coursing through the music that it sweeps you away. Not done yet as those clean vocals suddenly swoon in adding yet more power to things as they sing about being chewed up and spat out. Never has misery sounded quite so sublime. There’s still more in store, how about a wild scorching guitar solo just for good measure? It is left to shorter intermediate tracks to catch a breath and shoe-gaze before the next number literally rips through the ether and charges headlong in a maelstrom of glorious harmony. There’s something familiar about the melody of ‘Memorial Address’ but that could simply be that even after the first listen its lodged for life. There are some underlying parts to this charge that remind a bit of the likes of Enslaved and perhaps Kampfar, it has a feudal feel and musically has unexpected black textures as it hurtles with stellar gravitas and expands magnificently over almost 9 minutes.
There’s lots going on and plenty to focus on here and you can go from moments where you are gazing into the stratosphere to being suddenly shocked back into reality as another charged up flurry literally vaults from the speakers. However the second half of the album does adopt the latter stance more than the first. The reflective sounding and maudlin ‘Blue As The Sky, Powerful As The Waves’ dashes you with mesmerising force against the rocks. This is followed by piano and clean vocals building into what sounds like an 80’s new romantic pop hit on ‘How Can I.’ It is left to soaring vocal harmonies over a rich and simplistic melody and some rougher guitar parts to have us watching the skies on ‘I Can See The Stars.’ The blackened shrieks and pace are back for the kaleidoscopic sounding morass of ‘It’s Over’ and it certainly sounds like the break-up was volatile and messy.
Any complaints? Well perhaps pacing wise this falls slightly with the second half losing the incendiary mad dash of the first and I feel that on an already long album finishing with a 7 minute slower ambient instrumental ‘Ghost Tree Pt 3’ might have not been the wisest of moves but where else on the album could this atmospheric number have fitted?. That aside this is definitely a top ten contender for that getting much closer year end list that many of us are now really starting to try and put together in our heads. This is a great dose of Germ and thankfully one you don’t need pills to cure, now if only I could stop sneezing.
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)