Gardsghastr – Slit Throat Requiem

Band: Gardsghastr
Title: Slit Throat Requiem
Label: Profound Lore Records
Release Date: 26 April 2019
Country: International
Format reviewed: Mp3 320kb

As of late, metal has been going through some sort of nostalgia phase, with the appearance of a ridiculous number of OSDM, traditional heavy metal and classic black metal bands, rising like mushrooms after the rain. The problem with this is that nostalgia can be a tricky thing. You could either totally fall prey to it and bluntly rip off consecrated bands, and releasing records that get genuinely dull after a few listens, or try to channel what the forefathers of the genre crated and build on it, paying homage by showing you respect their work but also that you are able to push the genre just a little bit forward. Gardsghastr has the latter approach on their debut effort, “Slit Throat Requiem”.

The group has members from the US and Sweden, and all are seasoned veterans of extreme and obscure music, being part of projects like Musmahhu, Chaos Moon, Skáphe, Guðveiki to name a few, so you can rest assured that the music is going to be of high quality. The album consists of eight tracks, all creating a harrowing ride that lasts 58 unapologetic minutes. I couldn’t get hold of the lyrics, but according to the vocalist, the central theme of the album can be seen as an “Invocation of darkness, both in human and spiritual forms, that intertwines various dimensions. It summons the old ages and mysticism of centuries past, while acting as a harbinger for humanity’s consequential end. The disdain of empty souls thus being conquered by adversarial revenge, on earth and beyond.” and I can’t do anything but agree with this description, because I think it describes the sound quite well.

The album opens with the aptly named track “Promethean Flame”. Distant, grim pianos and a choir greet the listener and set the general tone of the album, before erupting in an unrelenting whirlwind of wrath, in this manner bringing back the icy flame of the Second Wave black metal from the top of a frozen mountain. The record continues continues with the title track, a longer song that builds up the tension before getting more serious, but it also has a slower segment that gives the composition room to breathe. “Journey Through Stagnant Time and Misery” is one of the more savage pieces on the album, with nine minutes of vicious pummelling, while “Beasts of Horn and Wing” , the longest track, provides the apex of this debut, with grandiose choirs and soaring guitar lines that would make any metalhead weep in malevolent joy. “Diabolical Reverence” could be seen as an interlude, half of the song providing clear guitars and minimalist drumming and the other being a straight forward black metal assault. The last proper song before the outro, “Unfurl The Profane Wisdom”, sees the band giving it its all, highlighting yet again all the important elements of the album, before everything ends with the aforementioned outro, that consists of four minutes of dire dark ambient, during which the listener can recover from this ecstatically bleak listening experience.

The key element that tremendously shines on this record are the keyboards. As I mentioned in the beginning, there are so many bands paying homage to the old days, and Gardsghastr also does that. I’m sure a number of people already made this comparison, but out of the important bands that appeared during the second wave of black metal, Gardsghastr definitely chose Emperor as their main inspiration. The frozen atmosphere, the piercing hellish screams, the heavy use of keyboards, the symphonic elements, it’s all there. However, this is not a reimagining of “In The Nightside Eclipse”. While Emperor had a more operatic touch, Gardsghastr achieve an enchanting ghastly aura. The keyboards are present almost everywhere, but without being too in-your-face. Rather, they feel like spectres, lingering in the shadows, haunting your dreams and never giving you a moments peace. The album sounds absolutely razor sharp all throughout. The production captures the old school sound masterfully, while still giving the instruments a razor edge that could cut eardrums with such ease.

On “Slit Throat Requiem”, Gardsghastr open a tomb sealed long ago and release back in the world wraiths that we considered gone along with the bands that first created them, and on top of that, they even tame them and twist them to their linking, in this way breeding a new version of the old. 8/10 Metal Gentleman

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