Carrying a torch for old-school Scandinavian second wave black metal through a forest at night, Asgrauw have delivered an album that really does make me nostalgic for the 90s. The music on Gronspech speaks to me in a very specific, occult-tinged way that only this kind of music can.
The band have a dual vocal approach, which means that there’s quite a bit of vocal variety on display across the tracks. Each singer has their own style, and varies their performance with different deliveries during the songs.
Bleak atmosphere and dark, blackened riffs make for a good mixture of slow misery, blackened frost, and energetic hatred. The songs are of the second wave style right down to the marrow, which the band members obviously know and love with a deep enthusiasm. Each of the songs on this album are well-written and structured, making great use of both atmosphere and aggression, depending on the needs of the music at any given time.
Melancholic moods infect the album, but these are juxtaposed against a barely-restrained intensity, offering the best of unhinged black metal that’s been tamed somewhat by a mood-driven backbone that the band clearly has. The end result is an uneasy truce between the warring aspects of the music, but one that works in the listener’s favour as the songs give you exactly what you’d want from a release like this.
All of the above is enhanced by subtle keyboards here and there, further adding grim atmosphere. Tastefully deployed, these add a lot of value when they appear.
The production is pitch-black and surprisingly weighty, allowing the band’s frosted guitars to shine darkly, while the drums create a particularly thunderous sound, especially during the fills. It’s a recording that succeeds in capturing the 90s style, while also providing the band with a meatier sound than a lot of bands from that era enjoyed. The bass guitar is also audible, which is a refreshing change from a lot of black metal.
Gronspech is a very enjoyable, very strong album. Any black metal purist should lap this up.