Hrizg – Oaken Path Of Grief

Hrizg is a project that depends tremendously on the delivery of its music. Really, the delicate shimmer of grandiose guitar distortion is just as important as the riffs themselves, and the proud, verging on spoken word vocal performance is exponentially more critical to the compositions as a whole than the words being spoken. ‘Oaken Path Of Grief’ is an album deeply concerned with aesthetics in all its forms; not to say that this is a shallow release, or one lacking content. It simply puts a great deal of emphasis on the sonic presence of the music itself.

Now, while it’s not shallow, it’s most certainly pretty one-dimensional music; nearly every track on this album is quite minimalistic in nature, composed of the bare elements of percussion, strings, and voice, and with each of those elements synchronizing in the deep pulse of traditional black metal. The traditional lexicon of blast beats and tremolo riffs along with the occasional rasp is present, though presented sometimes in a rather different way; oftentimes the music prefers to dwell in a more midpaced tempo of triplets, with folky rhythms and melodies taking precedence over the faster, more misanthropic (but still epic) tremolo riffs. As a primarily riff-based album, such riffs actually demonstrate a pretty wide variation, not merely in rhythm and atmosphere, but possessing very different senses of melody while always adhering to Hrizg’s root style. The vocals are actually a crucial part of the album, meshing with the guitars, each making the other appear more grandiose via reflection in rhythm or melody.

Apart from the black metal, ‘Oaken Path Of Grief’ features several ambient tracks which actually work splendidly in the context of the album as a whole. Deeply and clearly inspired by Summoning, these tracks are actually wonderful to listen to on their own, being just as well composed as the metal. Their interaction with the black metal tracks is also excellent; this is indeed an album to be listened to all the way through, to better enjoy the careful track order that organically changes mood and style throughout its length. It takes you on a pagan, Tolkienesque journey through all spectrums of mood and texture. It’s a very artistic piece in this respect; moreso than most black metal, and showcases a beautiful sort of ambition crafted out of simple elements. It’s an elegant release, but it’s designed to be observed somewhat in the background, as an ambient backdrop to sink into.

Yes, criticism can most certainly be leveled at this album for its general lack of progression or substantial differentiation in regards to anything but atmospheric craftsmanship. But as far as expertly delivered metal goes, this is a pretty great album which demonstrates exactly how heavy metal should be presented; not just as a series of songs hastily slapped together, but carefully and logically sequenced and laid out in a fashion that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is not the most deeply inspired metal I’ve ever heard, but it is among the best crafted and presented, with a stirring clarity of vision and artistry to it. It is music worth more than a cursory look.

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~ by noktorn on November 17, 2007.

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