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Grave Declaration – When Dying Souls Scream Praise
3 out of 5
Reviewed by: Eric Strother

 

GraveDec_AlbumCvrI am open-minded and have no trouble believing God can use anything to further the Kingdom, but I have to admit that when I first heard that Thor from Antestor had another project making (un)black metal worship music, my face probably looked like I was dividing a really big number by another really big number in my head. I immediately scolded myself for my skepticism because Crimson Moonlight’s “Eternal Emperor” has long been one of my favorite praise songs and set off in search of Grave Declaration’s The Nightshift Worshipper. I loved it so much that when my editor asked if I would like to review the band’s full-length debut, I jumped at the chance.

When Dying Souls Scream Praise is a chunk of symphonic black metal at its best. I know black metal “purists” will disagree with me here, but the production and mix are near-perfect, giving each layer its own space to develop without muddying the overall sound. For those that have heard The Nightshift Worshipper, Thor’s vocal style on Dying Souls is more straight-forward black metal than the more guttural death-influenced style on Nightshift. The guitars, handled by Thor and Kristian Larsen, combine for crushing chords and some intricate lead parts. The bass is high enough in the mix to give it a distinct presence yet low enough in the mix that it doesn’t overpower the other layers. The drums are programmed rather than live, which I know is a real turn-off for some fans, but it really is not that noticeable. The keyboards range from bombastic chords that would sound amazing on a pipe organ to delicate melodies that sound as if they were written for violins.

One point of concern for black metal fans might be the worship-themed lyrics. For better or worse, this is not Hillsong or Jesus Culture or Chris Tomlin. Consider this from the song “Silence”:

-Repetition, words upon words.
-Seems our praise is nothing but spam.
-Where’s the honest cry of a yearning heart?
-Where’s the passionate scream to honor our God?

-Fed up with the lack of original praise.
-All the words I can think of comes from someone
-Else. And my own words are gone, still I long to
-Be near you. So I enter your throne and I offer my
-Worship of silence.

And this from “Fall Down”:

-I am cold, I am snow, I am all dead
-Spirit autopilot has taken over instead

-Needless bleeding consoles my soul,
-Makes me think I am alive
-Truth be told, the frost goes deep through
-My skin flesh and blood.

-Shake me Lord, bring Your fire, defrost my heart,
-And in fear of what I have become, I see no choice
-But to storm Your gates, find Your throne and

-Fall down, bow down, to the ground, fall down.

There are also two instrumental tracks on the album. The first, simply called “Instrumental #1,” is a symphonic track. The keyboard is masterful, but I cannot help thinking this track would have been unbelievable with a live orchestra. The second instrumental, “Interlude,” is for solo piano and really serves as an introduction to the final track, “Jeg Er Frelst, Å For En Nåde.”

If there is a low point to this album, it would be “Fall Down.” I am all for bands stretching themselves creatively and not being limited by genre boundaries, however the industrial/electronica sound of the introduction really sounds out of place on the album, in my opinion. I will admit that repeated listening has made this grow on me a bit, but sometimes I just want to skip forward to about the 1:35 mark where the black metal sound begins to return.

Overall, this is an excellent album, perhaps one of the best symphonic (un)black metal albums to date. The “Fall Down” intro aside, the album is consistent and unified without being monotonous. Some of the lyrics are a little cheesy (“You’re the hardest rocking God of all time!”), but they are sincere. I must also say that I love the album art for its simplicity and for remaining true to the black metal aesthetic.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reviewed by: Eric Strother

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