Review: Grey Heaven Fall, Black Wisdom (Aesthetics of Devastation, 2015)

Black Wisdom is the ambitious sophomore full-length from Russian trio Grey Heaven Fall, following a 2013 split with fellow Russians Twilight is Mine—the first two releases from intriguing Russian imprint Aesthetics of Devastation. Expect six lengthy tracks, averaging eight-and-a-half minutes apiece, for about 51 minutes of a deliriously gnashing and dissonant form of creative blackened death metal à la Deathspell Omega meets Ulcerate.

The tone is set right away with opener "The Lord is Blissful in Grief," loaded with gut-churningly twisted and mangled riffing over percussion that ranges from restrained blasting and tactful fills to borderline polyrhythmic passages that boast a jazzy swing and flashy cymbal work.

The 11+-minute "Spirit of Oppression" centers around a riff akin to a warped cassette of Marduk's "Christraping Black Metal" being played backwards on top of itself through speakers dripping with mud—occasionally easing up on the frenetic chaos for some slower and more spacious passages (bordering on doom, but in a higher range, which keeps things interesting) that bring in slightly abstracted guitar melodies and again highlight the impressive range of the drumming. "To the Doomed Sons of Earth" creates a more traditional black metal aesthetic in its use of relatively straightforward tremolo picking and blastbeats, as the vocals gravitate towards a midrange snarl throughout (as opposed to the lower and more sinister bark that tends to dominate the material).

By far the shortest piece at just three minutes, "Sanctuary of Cut Tongues" is sort of a quiet, murky dark ambient interlude with what sounds like indecipherable layers of obfuscated speaking voices gurgling beneath the surface. This segues nicely into the bizarre "clean" guitar intro to "Tranquillity of the Possessed," which takes on a deeper and more oppressive doom metal vibe once the distortion joins in, and gradually morphs back towards quickly shifting percussive patterns and weirdly fucked up guitar work that twists and turns around (and cascades across) itself. "That Nail in a Heart," the nearly 12-minute closer, then returns to a somewhat chunkier and more straightforward black metal attack, interspersed with superb discordant runs and some of the more intriguing panning and layering of the album—accentuating the interplay between instruments. And how 'bout that unexpectedly bluesy lead work!? Whoa!

I have no quarrels with the production. For the most part, it's very clear and powerful. The bass can tend to get lost at times, but it's also quite obvious when they work with a little more breathing room, so something tells me it's always there playing a subtle role to contribute to the overall texture and sense of unease within.

Available in both Russian and English CD editions, the jewel case is housed in a simple black and white slipsleeve that contains the album title, band name, and track titles. The booklet is also largely black and white (sans the excellent cover art by Italian artist Sergio Padovani), following a simple yet attractive design aesthetic. Lyrically, the themes are fantastically intense—highly recommended as a key element of the album's experience:

Famed be our God in the sacrament of perdition!
Behold death and woe of your sons, who filled the graves
With themselves being devoured by Mother Earth...
Who wasted their lives under your purulent shine,
Blindly searching for you... Though you were amongst them
The dead sing their fame to you with silence
In your halls of darkness. They are so blissful and empty
In the embrace of God given life to them...

There's certainly much more to the big picture here than what I've stated above, but I'm not trying to get overly analytical about it: Black Wisdom is an excellent album, and you should do some digging yourself. I'll leave you with my normal spiel about how both Grey Heaven Fall and Aesthetics of Devastation deserve more attention—each is pushing for a higher level of artistry, and that's quite cool.

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  1. Just released a video for “Tranquility in a Black Room”

    4.27.2016 | By kidlazarus