I’m more partial to a bit of atmospheric folk black metal than the average metal man in the street – but you have to quickly develop a quality filter. I mean, there’s a lot of it about and there are some bands that seem to churn out a lot of stuff that isn’t really moving the dial forward very much. The problem is that the basics are pretty straightforward: take a piercing tremolo melody, a backing riff, some rasping vocals and plenty of lush keyboard padding and you have yourself a home starter kit. From there, all you need to do is add plentiful acoustic guitar, according to your taste, and you’re in. The ‘shoegaze’ meets acoustic formula can be a thing of beauty. But the trick is to make the stringent and confining formula interesting for more than three or four minutes and that’s where many bands collapse. Krigsgrav, on the other hand, undoubtedly have something a little more to offer. Taking a more stripped down, slightly bass-heavy approach than is normal for the genre which switches from black metal to neo-folk and at times almost verges on alt-rock. With that, they’ve come a long way from previous efforts which were more firmly in the black metal camp and they have clearly set out on an exploration with this which I’d say most closely associates them with someone like Agalloch.
Where Krigsgrav seem to have hit the spot is that there’s a warmer, easy quality to their sound: an almost pastoral feeling (the album tracks are supposed to represent the cycle of the seasons) rather than the shrill, icy bleakness that is more common with this sort of thing. There is the occasional ‘drop’, to borrow a phrase from another musical genre, that snaps us out of our rustic reverie – the intro to Spire Of The Hunt comes in hard and relatively fast, for example. And some decent tracks like Ghosts Among The Ashes that very nearly elevate this release into something special.
Something that I think is unusual is that the production throughout gives quite a lot of definition to each of the instruments rather than letting them melt into one lush crescendo of sound. It’s something I couldn’t quite get used but I’m sure is entirely intentional. But I also feel like this type of music needs to hold something in reserve to really take your breath away now and again – which never quite happens. Those moments of song writing genius that makes atmospheric black metal, folk inspired or not, a genre worth exploring. The Carrion Fields never quite has you on the edge of your seat but rather makes being sat there a pleasant, interesting contemplative experience. Overall, Krigsgrav is a cut above the average, particularly when put next to the hefty crop of its fellow bands jumping on this particular band wagon out of the states at the moment. Worth a look for fans of the genre.
(7/10 Reverend Darkstanley)