Bergen’s best bash boundaries
Once you get past the random capitalization of moniker and album title, Gaahls WYRD’s debut album is everything a fan of premium Norwegian black could ever want. Part Ved Buens Ende, part Enslaved, part Killing Joke, but all Gaahl’s perturbed vision, there’s literally not a single thing at fault here.
For the adventurous, there’s the weird meta-blast/floor tom combo—courtesy of wunderkind Kevin Kvåle—of “From the Spear.” It drives Gaahls WYRD into some uncharted territory, as the guitars of Ole Walaunet crash sideways into the cavalcade of staggered beats. Certainly, a full song of that stuff would be mind-numbing, but Gaahl and team are far braver and smarter than most bands. The Killing Joke breakdown after the main assault brings to mind songs like “Adorations”—particularly Geordie Walker’s cool style—and “Kings and Queens.” The next standout is “Ghosts Invited.” Musically, this is the fastest, yet most tribal song on GastiR. Vocally, Gaahl borders on untouchable, crooning to his ancestors like a Norwegian Scott Walker from the edge of the Preikestolen, or through the eye of the Torghatten. There’s a clear connection between what lies beyond and Gaahl’s interest in it.
Opposite these tracks, there’s the De Mysteriis-tribute opener “Ek Erilar,” the ultra-vicious “Through and Past and Past” and the off-kilter “Veiztu Hve.” Imbued in every single one is a sense of adventure, of veering off the beaten path in a foreign land. Gaahl’s inimitable, sage-like presence is also woven into the music. Whether it’s dynamic vocal delivery or his dead-eyed stare, GastiR isn’t for the light-hearted or the myopic. But the centerpiece to this debut isn’t the obvious “From the Spear.” Rather, it’s the Leonard Cohen-meets-black metal experiment “Carving the Voices.” Tempered in its entirety, it’s a wolf waiting (and waiting) to strike. It feels regal, natural and full of purpose. They don’t make records like this too often.
Review taken from the July 2019 issue of Decibel.