It’s finally upon us.
Grift’s Arvet has been at the top of my list of anticipated albums since the moment it was announced. I often mention Grift when talking about folk metal. They’re a shining example of how to do it right. No silly Vikings, no cheesy cosplay, no pretense. Just a pure expression of passion for your musical heritage. On Arvet, the band goes even further down the rabbit hole of traditional folk and comes out the other side with something quite special indeed.
Some of my colleagues were talking about this album, and the general consensus was that they weren’t wildly impressed upon first listen. This perplexed me, as I was completely sucked into the album within the first minute of the opening track “Flyktfast.” Like I mentioned earlier, the emphasis is on traditional music this time around. That’s not to say they’ve stripped the black metal from their sound – far from it, in fact. But Grift have definitely shifted focus onto the exploration of rustic music on Arvet. Perhaps for some, this will cause the album to be less immediately accessible, but I do feel that many who were left cold during their first or second listens will warm up to the album once they pry a little deeper.
Unlike previous works, where Erik held his cards close to his chest and threw some interesting curve balls at listeners halfway through an album/EP, he tips his hand on Arvet‘s first song and reveals his newest trick: the inclusion of a traditional Swedish instrument, a psalmodikon. After reading in the promo blurb that it was an instrument used in poor Swedish communities at the turn of the 19th century, I decided to do some research of my own, and boy, it’s got a somber sound to it. The tasteful usage of the psalmodikon really adds a sense of authenticity to the music, and it lends an air of sullen, macabre unease to what was already a very downcast album.
Elsewhere, we hear some chilling clean vocals on Glomskans Jartecken, and it’s certainly a nice touch. The vocals are a constant joy to listen to. Erik has a very entertaining way of rolling his Rs and hitting high notes in a way that reminds me of the always-excellent Sivyj Yar. His harsh vocals are far and away from standard black metal fare, though I can’t envision any other vocal delivery with Grift’s music.
Arvet uses sampled sounds in a way that’s both tasteful and intelligent, and they never irritate me like many other albums with sampled sounds do. In fact, if you’ve heard Grift’s acoustic EP Vankelsteg (or were lucky enough to get one of the 100 hand-signed cassettes, like me) you should have a good idea of what to expect. They set the tone and enhance the mood. Nothing more, nothing less.
My one complaint, and it’s not exactly a fair one, is that the album is a scant 36 minutes. I want MORE, dammit! But Grift understands that sometimes less is more, and they’ve offered up a brief album full of heart-wrenching folk black metal that leaves me salivating, scratching, and anxious for more. Grift and Heretoir are sitting pretty atop my year-end list right now, and by this point, I’m not sure they could possibly be dethroned. While for some, it might be much more of a grow-er than a show-er, Arvet is one of 2017’s essential albums. Don’t miss it for anything.