Gavran - Indistinct Beacon

30 Nov 2022 - Knut

Sludge Metal | Atmospheric | Doom Metal | Dunk!records | Release date: 02 Dec 2022

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2020, March 20: the Dutch trio Gavran releases their debut album Still Unavailing and then - the world closed. And there seems, unfairly, not to be much coverage of the album. It must have been very frustrating, it could have made anyone just leave and forget about making music. But this release shows that Gavran impressively never gave up as the band releases a new monolithic, heavy album that will give you shivers. In a good way.

Their music, though the riffs are as colossal and monotonous as they come, is extremely versatile. They build on the same formula as the first (very promising) album; expansive songs that develop their compositions - clocking in around ten minutes each. They divide their songs into three parts, with the first and third parts cathartically heavy and the second part dreamy, celestial, and ethereal - closing in on Darkwave with eerie clear vocals. And here is the gist: after a few listens the vocals become the driving force, even over dense heaviness as they morph into different styles from whispering, screamo, vocalizing, transparent beauty, and strong clean lines among others. We who know the first album are surprised once more by the versatile vocals that (have now) become a hallmark of the band.

Each song also begins with a slow and clean guitar, sometimes with effects. Except for the third song”Dim” which just hits the ground running. While heavy staccato riffing, drums driving the vocals to push them from clear melodies to screaming. Here they use the low-end bass to take over the sonics and it is like the heavy riffs of the guitar place themselves above the bass and drums like dense vapor or smoke. It is fascinating how the clear vocals find their way into this heavy music and give direction and melody while the riffs hammer on, broken by sudden bursts of higher-pitched tremolo technique. This might be the closest one comes to a solo on this album. But, well, this is dense heavy music that does not need high-pitched solos. While the guitar riffs on, the drums shifts and hits hard, and the bass becomes the main instrument. The pace shifts and it seems that the song struggles to find its way in the tight airs, but it soon rises above everything and atmospheric metal accompanies the versatile vocals to the end. It is just an amazing composition of a song.

It is just aptly that the band calls itself Gavran, Croatian for ‘raven’ as this pitch-black bird has many meanings in different cultures - from Christian tradition where the bird was condemned by Noah for not returning with the news of the receeding flood to Viking mythology of Odins´s bird were Hugin and Munin where the ravens of thoughts and mind. The many meanings of the bird are so apt for this music that heavily sweeps through your thoughts and mind as it hammers on as it does in the opening song, ”Dvorac”. After clear strumming, the band rises its black monolith like an invincible castle wall. It is as heavy as it gets with the guitar giving subtle changes as it drives forward keeping the melody intact. When you think it cannot get heavier, it does so with the help of the bass and steady drums and withheld vocals in the background. Yet, it thunders on with screams in the background. The many subtle layers are like labyrinths in the castle and release some enormous atmospheric sonics as the drums drive the bass and the riffs on and on.

The fourth song, ”Duhovi” has a dreamlike opening with a monotonic fuzzy guitar with clean singing as if one was in an empty church before the doom sludge is upon us. The vocals continue unflinching deeply integrated into the embracing heavy instruments. It flattens out with sound effects accompanied by a very heavy low-end bass and slow, dry drumming. The guitar’s sound effects are swirling around like apparitions in a medieval castle. A fast build-up led by the vocals brings the monolithic riffs along together with low-tuned bass and steady drumming. The vocals change to vocalizing hovering above the multi-layered hammering by the other instruments.

We often talk about the bass and the distorted guitars when we are raving about sludge metal-related music. However, often like in the song ”Talas”, drums are important to give a versatile drive to the music. On this one, the desperately screaming vocals are supported by the monotonous sound, but it is fascinating how the drums push boots filled with lead forward. This is another hallmark of the album: how the drums often lead the way toward the second part of each song or melodic theme. In the second part of “Talas”, ethereal vocals are hovering over the low instruments, spoken words appear in harmony with transparent vocalizing. And the monster on lead boots rises again with screaming vocals, catching the melodic theme riffing, bass following the guitar in the low end and the drums give energy before it seems to flatten out, like a wave losing its force hitting an underwater reef. The album closes with “Pesak” where the monolithic riffs rise and the vocals are unaffected and floating along and begin singing in duet with the screams that take over in the end and the sand grains are running out of the hourglass while the 40 minutes of perfect doomy sludge with atmospheric elements are over.

Some, most (!), reviewers compare the band they review with other bands that might get you a hint of what this is. I am not in the habit of doing that. Not very often anyway. But if I should give you a hint on this one: it is like the heaviest chest thundering part of Pallbearer meeting the Sturm und Drang-parts of Amenra, with a dash of Black Sabbath sprinkled over it. So, the raven image is quite an apt one as Amenra uses the raven and on the cover of the first Black Sabbath gloomy cover, a raven is sitting on a branch looking at the black-dressed woman. That might give you a clue why this album should be in your collection.