Guenhyvar – Gall Demo 2006

When I first opened my copy of Guenhyvar’s ‘Gall Demo 2006’, a small scrap of lined notebook paper was placed within it. The elegant yet unsure script read, “Noah, I enjoy your writing, be honest, Lucas Gustafson”. Removing this note for a moment, I saw that the track listing and liner notes were similarly hand-written in a similar breed of cursive. It was at this point that I realized Guenhyvar was something special; a band that had taken the time to write this information over and over again, just as lovingly and precisely every time. Would Guenhyvar’s music live up to its precise presentation?

Guenhyvar is going to be the next Cynic, only a thousand times better.

I’m not joking. Granted, the stylistic elements are much rawer and different, but the comparison is there: both are daring, progressive death metal bands, but Guenhyvar makes music that is actually pleasing to listen to as well as being thoughtful. This full-length demo (clocking in at 35 minutes) is an incredible debut for any band, and eclipses the achievements of numerous bands many years their senior. This is one of the best death metal demos I’ve ever heard; incredibly precise, thoughtful, and engaging on every level. With music like this, it’s a travesty that the name Guenhyvar is not on the tongue of every metalhead out there today.

Opening with the eleven minute epic of ‘Silhouette Masquerade’, Guenhyvar immediately proves themselves a great deal cleverer than the average death metal band. The only musical resemblance I can draw is a bit of Morbid Angel and a local band in Florida named Felwinter; otherwise, this is an extremely unique group. We could generally describe this as death metal with a high degree of folk or viking influence; indeed, this first song passes through oldschool death metal to modern, before ending with vivid Mediterranean acoustic passages and viking metal sections. And you know what? They all link together perfectly; no part sticks out like a sore thumb like so many bands are apt to do. All the tracks follow such a strange pattern: the next song, ‘Solar Vale’ can somehow transfer between folk acoustics and Deep Purple-style leads without seeming pretentious over overwrought.

Production is, as one would expect, a bit raw, but this is one of very few bands that I would say would be aided by a crystal-clear production job. These are songs that deserve such a sound, so that one can strip back the multi-layered compositions that make Guenhyvar so unique. The number of disparate elements this band can combine is staggering: for instance, this is one of the first death metal band I’ve heard with frequent use of clean vocals that actually sounds beautiful, not cheesy. The performances are a bit timid, it seems, as though they’re not quite sure of themselves and the music they’re playing. However, they really should be: Guenhyvar is making music far, far in excess of quality than most other bands today.

‘Gall Demo 2006’ is a brilliant work that I would recommend any metalhead pick up. I would not be surprised one bit to see Guenhyvar heralded as brilliant innovators in a few short years; they have all the necessary brilliance. All that’s needed is exposure, which everyone who reads this should attempt to provide immediately.

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~ by noktorn on March 23, 2007.

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