Groteskh- Unconsciousness

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, June 23, 2013

Austria’s Groteskh put out their debut full length Unconsciousness back in April, and unlike many of the other black metal bands out there it serves as their first main recorded output rather than following a series of demos. But this isn’t necessarily a bad approach, as the group features a lineup of musicians that have been involved in a slew of other metal projects. Groteskh certainly pulls from a familiar approach, but does their material have what it takes to stand out in the genre?

Unconsciousness certainly starts off strong, as after a short intro the instrumentals kick right in with fast paced, melodic-tinged arrangements. Compared to some of the other black metal I have been listening to recently Groteskh feels a bit more traditional, utilizing the same type of colder, chilling tonality and waves of sound that are common from the major players in Europe. But the way that the melodies are layered into these tracks and wash over the harsher elements hooked me almost immediately, and the level of atmosphere that the band is able to create plays a significant role in this. The formula may feel familiar, but there were a number of moments early on that made me want to come back and give them another spin. However, by the time I got to the last couple of tracks the melodies the instrumentalists were utilizing started to sound a bit too similar and it wasn’t as easy to distinguish these last few numbers compared to the earlier ones. It’s clear that Groteskh is capable of some captivating arrangements when their songwriting is at its peak, but they aren’t quite at the point yet where they can sustain that peak level for an entire release. For a debut the production values are quite strong though, and it’s exciting to find a band that debuts with such a crisp and heavy hitting recording.

Malthus, who is also the lead guitarist in Hellsaw, takes the lead vocal role on Unconsciousness and he has a higher pitched scream/shriek that at times reminds me quite a bit of Ihsahn. There’s the same kind of throat tearing pitch present throughout this album, and while Malthus doesn’t maintain this style on every single track there were quite a few moments where Ihsahn was the most direct point of comparison that popped into my mind. Thanks to the clearer production values the vocals are one of the most prominent elements, so you’ll know immediately whether this particular style fits your tastes or not. For me, the harsher style was a selling point and I’ve always been drawn to this higher, extreme pitch which helped Groteskh make an impression.

This release starts off strong, and while it didn’t quite sustain this level for its entirety Groteskh definitely showcases potential. There are some melodic leads early on that really grabbed me, and if the instrumentalists can branch out just a bit more and ensure that some of these ideas don’t fall into a repeating formula by the end of an album then they could become a truly heavy hitting black metal band. But as it stands I still like their overall sound quite a bit and will likely give Unconsciousness some additional spins while waiting to see how they are able to grow in the years to come.

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