I am a great fan of this Belgian band’s previous work “The Long Now” (2011). Its devastating swathes of sludgy sadness are just part of a electrifying progression. Like a book you don’t want to put down, the ever-changing moods just make it impossible to escape, not that you’d want to.
On the face of it, this one again comprises four massive chunks of between eight and around thirteen minutes, plus a couple of other bits. The opener “New Throne” starts in an unfamiliarly aggressive tone, but about half way through as I was getting used to this fiery post metal, delicate strings enter the scene and we’re gazing melancholically at eternity. Skilfully the build up becomes ever more epic and tense. The vocalist’s tone is agonising. It’s goosebumps time. Oddly, I thought that this track could have attacked our nerve ends for more than its allotted eight minute fifty seconds, but there’s no hanging around as “My Triumph” starts with a captivating drum beat. Again the echoing guitar ring has a sense of distance and isolation about it. The vocalist matches its beauty with a haunting tone. A truly magnificent guitar line follows, accompanied by the hypnotic beat of the drum. It’s too dynamic to be called doom but it has the doom genre’s deadly and sinister tone about it. The instrumental work is awesome but yet it was as if this ever-increasing violence is drilling its way into my brain. But I think it’s the quieter passages which create the most impact and with thirteen minutes to play with, “My Triumph” slows down into subtle reflectiveness, emerging in the sea of irrepressible sadness in which Grown Below excels.
Of course there are post metal bands, most notably Cult of Luna, Neurosis and Isis, who know how to create massive atmospheres, but I think what makes Grown Below different is that the world that they convey is somehow human if sad, and maybe more real. This impression may be due to the vocals, which can be haunting, melancholic or growled, and the intricately detailed and personal guitar work in the quiet moments. The ambiance is reminiscent of Netra’s “Sørbyen”. “My Triumph” ends violently, suggesting that all is not well with the world. After the three minute experimental melancholic piece “Valo Etendi”, which reminded me of a gun fight going on in the distance, there is a deathly quiet. A cosmic sound accompanies gentle guitar strains. It’s minimalist but with it comes a sense of foreboding. The drum pumps out a steady heart beat. The vocal line portrays gloom and vulnerability. This is “Phantoms”. The steadily progressing guitar reinforces the sense of loneliness. The clouds inevitably darken. The vocalist screams in pain as the guitar takes us to the top of the clouds and to majestic heights. “Reveries” follows the pattern of starting with haunting gloom before, perhaps predictably, exploding in a maelstrom of doom-laden and horrifying violence. This is Grown Below at their darkest. The album then fades away with a grey ninety second track “Malvarma”, whose origins are the cosmos.
Like its predecessor, “The Other Sight” has some breathtaking sections along with more recognisable bursts of post metal. It can be equally delicate and violent. There is great balance. Sophisticated, constantly evolving and always intensely atmospheric, it is once more like that book you don’t want to put down.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)