Thornesbreed- GTRD

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, October 30, 2015

Germany’s Thornesbreed wasn’t a band that I was familiar with prior to receiving their new full length GTRD to review, but given the length of time between their releases this isn’t that surprising. Formed in 1997, the group’s most recent releases are The Splendour of the Repellent from 2003 and 2008’s 273.15 Degrees Below Zero EP and what I was able to preview found Thornesbreed playing extremely dense death metal that simultaneously crushed the listener with bottom heavy riffing and established a murkier atmosphere. On GTRD there has been a noticeable stylistic shift from their previous endeavors, with the instrumentals heading towards scorching and grimier black metal while still allowing some of the weight and lower tonality from their death metal days to seep in. It’s a record that does its best to attack the listener from every angle, and despite the overwhelming nature of many of these songs those who choose to dive right in and explore the dense layers will find this to be a truly exciting and haunting album.

“Death, Lucid Death” starts the album off with a sparser melody that immediately gets under your skin and creates a creepier, unsettling atmosphere right from the very start. From there, that familiar chilling tonality that black metal is known for seeps in before Thornesbreed completely unleashes a dense attack of swirling riffs and destructive drumming. While the guitar patterns are pulling a lot more from the black metal side than ever before, the sheer noise level and weight of the instrumentals gives GTRD some death metal influence as well. It doesn’t really matter how you choose to categorize it though, because what is important is how strong the songwriting throughout the album is and how well the twisting and turning elements are able to consistently attack and overwhelm your senses. Thornesbreed likes to start off with eerier leads that spread out to create a thick atmosphere that’s ominous yet strangely inviting, and just as you start to get lulled into a trance they up their attack with chaotic, violent riffing and all-out blasting. It can be pretty overwhelming and it may take listeners a few times through to fully break through the layers and take in the subtle nuances, but as each blast to the face and suffocating melody starts to sink in you’ll likely find yourself coming back for another round. Even the interludes, which so often feel like throwaway elements of metal albums, are perfectly integrated into the rest of the tracks and give a brief respite from the madness while still keeping you on the edge of your seat.

Lead singer Sermon’s performance is truly immense, and plays a significant role in Thornesbreed’s ability to put the listener under their spell. Rather than sticking with a lower growl or higher scream, the vocals on GTRD touch upon all of these different ranges and are able to hit some of the most distorted and abrasive levels I’ve heard in a while. Without warning the higher screams might turn into a growl that is so deep and low pitched that it sounds like it is going to completely swallow up the instrumentals, and there are moments where Sermon seems to be pushing his abrasive screams so far that it sounds like his vocal cords are about to completely give out. On tracks like “Not a Second from Oceans to Frozen Wastelands” and “Horns ov Gaia” there is a shift over towards cleaner singing/chanting that mellows things out a bit but still maintains that ritualistic feel that is present throughout GTRD.

It may have been nearly four years since the last time this group released material, but it’s clear that they have used this longer period of incubation to push off in a different direction and hone their craft to its most chaotic and terrifying level. GTRD takes a significant amount of black metal elements while still maintaining some of the band’s earlier death metal sound, resulting in songs that are just as unsettling as they are destructive. Though it may prove to be a little overwhelming at first, that’s exactly what drew me in to Thornesbreed’s latest and the potency of the guitar leads and raw intensity of the vocals makes this one of the year’s highlights.

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