Polish quintet Thaw offer up 5 slabs of experimental Blackened noise with “Grains” the follow up to 2014’s “Earth Ground”.  If you can imagine the sonic equivalent to the polar ice caps melting  – a wall of freezing death oozing from a crack in an unforgiving blue desert then that will give you a clue as to what Thaw are looking to evoke.

Elements of drone and noise are layered on top of an atmospheric black metal blueprint creating a simultaneously mesmerising and disconcerting sound.

Opener “Brigand” is dripping with bombast and gusto with the drums sounding as if they are trying to force themselves into the foreground whilst a sludge black metal vocal rips through the track.  This no foot tapper. “The Thief” that follows forsakes the blows to the ear, preferring instead to offer up an eerie submerged aura. I am reminded of the old Sci Fi horror “The Abyss” with its sparse water as outer space style atmospheres. This is only augmented by the bizarre alien echo voice that permeates the track. The bass line is straight out of a funeral doom track but the rest of the composition is unnerving (in a good way).

“The Cabalist” is more organic sounding but no less mysterious. Whispering voices and echoed chants linger behind a huge bass which conjures up a fog horn blowing across an Arctic sea. The ship that blasts its warning must be an icebreaker because this is a slow gargantuan slab of noise. For all its atmosphere and mystery there is a distinct lack of excitement and thus my interest begins to wane. Even polar explorers must get bored of all that stark nothing after a while.

“The Harness” breaks through the ice with what sounds like the opening of Twist of Cain but instead morphs into bass heavy discordance and then Noise.  Elements of drone and electronics are shovelled on but it begins to sound muddled and over complicated. The raw power is diluted by “stuff” like a thousand pieces of plastic polluting the ocean.  I am pleased when I am able to extricate myself from its tidal pull.

“Wielki Piec” (Great Bake according to google translate) brings Grains to a close. This is more like it for this not so intrepid explorer. A gigantic slab of sludgy doom with swathes of atmospheric black metal guitars and ominous melodrama.

Thaw mix a lot of elements, orchestrating their ideas well. Whether those ideas can sustain the interest of the listener for multiple listens is unclear.  When embracing the more epic elements my interest and thus enjoyment was certainly piqued. Sometimes the briny broth needs to be kept free from detritus.

(5.5/10 Matt Mason)