Album Review – Grá / Lycaon (2023)

Succumb to the dark side of music ruled by this Swedish Black Metal horde armed with their sinister and visceral fourth studio album.

Since their inception in Stockholm, Sweden in 2010, the fantastic Black Metal entity Grá (a mixture of the Icelandic “grár” and the Swedish “grå”, simply meaning “gray”) has relentlessly worked to shape their music to be both a perfect example of Swedish Black Metal and a very personal interpretation of its classic sound. Now in 2023 the horde comprised of Heljarmadr (Dark Funeral, Cursed 13) on vocals, guitars and keyboards, Vediger (Diabolic Lust, Cursed 13) on bass, and Dimman (Veiled, Cursed 13) on drums returns from the underworld with their fourth opus, entitled Lycaon, a lecture in classic and modern Black Metal. Mixed by Terry Nikas at Zero Gravity Studios, mastered by George Nerantzis, displaying an explosive cover art by Chilean artist Felipe Ignacio, and featuring guest guitarist and keyboardist Maugrim (Vargagrav, Cursed 13) and guest vocalist Terry Nikas (Scar of the Sun), Lycaon heads in the opposite direction of their 2018 intricate and bombastic album Väsen, displaying fewer layers meticulously measured and well thought out to carry the right atmosphere forward.

White City Devil is very melodic and grim from the very first second, with Dimman sounding like a beast behind his drums offering Heljarmadr exactly what he needs to darkly roar nonstop in a flammable fusion of old school Black Metal with contemporary Melodic Black Metal. After such intense tune we have Flame of Hephaestus, even more sulfurous and with Heljarmadr growling the song’s lyrics in great fashion (“Through cinders and snow, chasing the storms / Cleansed and so cold, concealed and obscure / Astray from all life, so violently dark / Shrouded in ice, forged in the fire”) while the guitars sound utterly caustic; and Maugrim and Heljarmadr keep slashing our ears with their visceral riffs in Torn Asunder, an ode to Black Metal that will please all fans of the genre. Then we’re treated to the title-track Lycaon, a lesson in modern-day Black Metal spearheaded by the venomous vocals by Heljarmadr while Vediger and Dimman make the earth tremble with their demonic kitchen. In other words, simply raise your horns in the name of evil to the sound of this amazing song.

It’s then time for their infernal rendition of Bathory’s Chariots of Fire (from their 1987 album Under The Sign Of The Black Mark), with Heljarmadr stealing the spotlight with his demented vocal lines; whereas the sinister bass by Vediger kick off the groovy and melodic Ett Avskedsbrev (or “a farewell letter” from Swedish), accompanied by the rhythmic beats by Dimman. Brännmärkt, which means “tarnished”, “tainted” or “branded”, carries on the torch exploring the cold war from a Swedish perspective, where the intro depicting a Swedish emergency siren called “Hesa Fredrik” (Hoarse Fredrik) and an old radio transmission was recorded right when the Russia-Ukraine war started. Musically speaking, it’s absolutely heavy and obscure, with Dimman pounding his drums mercilessly while the guitars by Maugrim and Heljarmadr bring an extra touch of malignancy to the overall result, flowing into the tribalistic outro titled Jaws of the Underworld, concluding the album on a cinematic note to the sound of the hammering drums by Dimman.

As aforementioned, Väsen might have been dropped like a bomb onto our heads back in 2018, but it’s with Lycaon that Grá have reached a whole new level of obscurity in their music, already placing it as one of the best albums of 2023 even if we’re just starting the month of January. Hence, don’t forget to show your support and admiration to the guys from Grá by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, by subscribing to their official YouTube channel, by streaming all of their wicked creations on Spotify, and obviously by purchasing their massive new album from the Avantgarde Music’s BandCamp page, from Sound Cave as a Digipak CD, a black vinyl or as a limited color vinyl, or from Amazon. Lycaon is Swedish Black Metal at its finest, and I’m sure you’ll succumb to the dark side ruled by Grá right after your first listen to such Stygian album.

Best moments of the album: Flame of Hephaestus, Torn Asunder, Lycaon and Brännmärkt.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2023 Avantgarde Music

Track listing
1. White City Devil 4:40
2. Flame of Hephaestus 4:20
3. Torn Asunder 4:17
4. Lycaon 5:10
5. Chariots of Fire (Bathory cover) 2:50
6. Ett Avskedsbrev 4:27
7. Brännmärkt 6:17
8. Jaws of the Underworld 3:38

Band members
Heljarmadr – vocals, guitars, keyboards
Vediger – bass, backing vocals
Dimman – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Maugrim – additional guitars and keyboards
Terry Nikas – additional vocals

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