Title: Nos Olhos da Coruja
Label: Void Wanderer Productions / War Productions
Release Date: 04 December 2020
Format reviewed: High-quality digital recording
Hang on to your bits metalheads because today we will take a deathly plunge and plummet to the lowermost levels of the Portuguese underground to explore “Nos Olhos da Coruja” (In the Eyes of the Owl). This is the new, imposing aural work and fourth full-length release from one-man black metal act Grievance. The album is due out tomorrow and physical copies will be strictly limited to 200 six-panel digipacks, distributed via both Void Wanderer Productions and War Productions.
If you are unfamiliar with the band they have a long and interesting history, forming and releasing their first demo way back in 1997. During the early years the band wasn’t actually a solo project but after some line up changes and a second demo things slowed to a halt and the band took a long hiatus. Thankfully, however, Koraxid who is an original band member (drums and vocals) and who is also credited with naming the band, performed some dark necromancy and raised Grievance from the dead. So from 2011, with Koraxid now assuming control of the beast, the newly exhumed one-man manifestation of the band had stability and a fresh direction. Since then a live line-up has been assembled for gigs and Grievance has been going from strength to strength, gaining more attention with each release.
The new album, “Nos Olhos da Coruja” is set to be yet another triumph for the band as it is an overall solid black metal release. It consists of eight tracks and 39 minutes of rough, dark, gritty, and commanding compositions. The opening track, “Lâmina Anciã” (Ancient Blade), begins by invoking crushing tension, so much so that I want to hold my breath while I wait for the build up to come to it’s apex. Before long an assertive vocal cuts in, the blast beats begin and I can breathe again. Throughout the album there are other captivating moments similar to this where the slow to mid-tempo portions of the song engineer a burgeoning terror prior to the pace ramping up, and these create a truly immersive atmosphere. The album production is quite raw, and at times a little flat but mostly this roughness creates texture in the sound. The vocals are dominant in the mix which adds an emphasis and intensity, pulling the listener’s focus to the lyrics.
The vocals are gruff, hoarse, raspy and sung entirely in Portuguese. Luckily for me, a virtual monoglot, I had access to some English translations of the lyrics which absolutely deepened my experience with the album. The themes touch on strength, inner struggles, darkness, the pursuit of knowledge, respect for ancient wisdom, and are deeply poetic and almost philosophical. There are a few references to the Lusitanians which I must admit that I had to research as I had little knowledge of these peoples, but who I now know are ancestors from the region that is now modern day Portugal.
The title track of the album is one of the stand-outs for me. It tells it’s tale through the eyes of an owl: “I incorporate this majestic animal and prowl the cold night, hungry and attentive. I fly through the mists of memory, through centuries of history. I remember everything that happened in these lands, so the memories can warn this blind generation to the mistakes of the past”. The track begins with an ominous slow-paced sequence before transitioning to a rapid fire tempo and back again. The vocals here are delivered as a deep, low growl which pairs well with the slower paced portions and the result is gorgeously dark and heavy.
“Poesia Da Noite” (The Poetry of the Night) and “Reivindico” (I Claim) are far less subtle in their delivery and spew raucous evil from the outset, the vocals are a higher shrill shriek and there are even some frenzied guitar breaks or solos mid-way through. As a black metal fan these maniacal, fast-paced, sinister tracks are a pure delight.
“Nos Olhos da Coruja” as a whole has all the essential ingredients for a great raw black metal album but is so much more than just tremolo picking and blast beats. For instance I truly enjoy the flexibility in the vocal work, as well as the constant changing of pace throughout the album. I also appreciate the subtle moments where the aggression dips slightly. All of these elements give the album depth and hold me captive right up to the final track “Vitória Consumada” (Consummated Victory) which closes with a satisfying minute and a half of ominous ambience. These final moments give a much needed pause for adjustment before the inevitable snap back to reality. This album is one that had me coming back again and again, and even after I have finished this review I know that it will remain on high rotation for me.
After multiple play-throughs today, Grievance has left me feeling artistically inspired so please indulge me while I conclude this review with something grossly dramatic:
For now I will leave you here in the black metal underground, where, in the endless dark of these catacombs it is hard for your eyes to adjust and easy to lose all concept of time. But despair not, as tomorrow, the labyrinth of crumbling corridors will quake and each fleck of dust will dance, as the dawn of the new day marks the coming of Grievance’s fourth full-length album “Nos Olhos da Coruja”. Maybe then the shadows will lift, your path will become clearer and you can find solace in the Portuguese underground. 8.5/10 Proua Metallist
8.5/10 To greatness and glory
**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre.