Friday, January 10, 2020

Full Length Review: GURTHANG "Ascension" (Immortal Frost Productions) by Dave Wolff

Location: Lublin, Lubelskie
Country: Poland
Genre: Black metal
Full Length: Ascension
Format: CD (limited to 500 copies), digital
Release date: August 23, 2019
Not to be confused with the Belgian band of the same name, Poland’s Gurthang have been active since 2010 and released six albums in all, and a host of demos, singles, EPs and compilations. Their latest comp, “Decade Of Solitude”, was released independently early in January and features tracks collected from their past efforts. “Ascension” is their second release on Immortal Frost Productions and is also available from Plastichead and Season Of Mist. I’m writing this on one of the coldest nights of the year, a paradigmatic time to listen to black metal at its most glacial, stygian and cloistered. Gurthang consider themselves black metal with touches of doom metal and death metal; those touches are ambiguous and you’ll have to listen close to recognize them. A broader description of their music, from their Facebook community page, is that it depicts a journey from the stars to the depths of one’s inner self. Whether this means calling the infinite reaches of space into your being or finding a personal connection, “Ascension” represents a profound journey that makes a lasting impression. From the beginning of this journey you get a feeling of wandering into an icebound moor where all that’s around you is snow reflecting moonlight while all else is calignosity. From there you are gradually taken into the endless void, possibly with no return trip. Satyricon’s “Dark Medieval Times” and Immortal’s “Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism” in their frigidness are challenging albums to emulate, but “Ascension” comes close as Gurthang channel their energy from the timeless emptiness that animated those underground classics. One contributing factor is that the distortion in the guitars is often substantially toned down, making for a sound that’s somewhat cleaner, but moribund and somehow still abrasive and scathing. The guitars also alternate between being rough and atmospheric. The resulting effect suggests almost immeasurable decay and putridity, like a soul trapped in a body that hasn’t passed on for millennia. Subtle, tenuous keyboards and fastidious, echo-loaded percussion cutting through the darkness like knives generate trenchant, striking ambience. As far as the album’s doom and death metal characteristics, I guess you could liken the keyboards and many of the guitar progressions to early Paradise Lost or perhaps My Dying Bride. If you like the bands I made comparisons with, you would do well to support Gurthang’s efforts to keep the black metal flame alive. -Dave Wolff

A.Z.V.: Vocals, guitars, effects
Stormalv: Bass
G.H.: Effects
Vojfrost: Keyboards
Turenn: Drums

Track list:
1. In Void Again
2. The Great Silence
3. Mirrors
4. This Mortal Shell
5. Under The Dome
6. Wither
7. Solace

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