Review Summary: "I was stealing things in the supermarket today while balanced on the shoulders of vampires. I was charged with shoplifting on three counts." - Tim Vine
Grime Stone Records has spent the last year upending the tenets of black metal as espoused by the genre’s infamous and in retrospect, often infantile second-wave. Label founder Abysmal Specter and others who have also released music on GSR – Lace Shawl, Fugitive Wizard, Zhmach, etc…- often trade seriousness for jollity, and as a result the label is overflowing with black metal that is as whimsical as it is well-constructed. The latest release by the label, Bloody Keep’s eponymous EP, is yet another entry of joyous, vampiric-themed black metal from the band, and their best set of songs yet.
Though similar in sound to his main band Old Nick, Bloody Keep is manned by Abysmal Specter alone and is perhaps the purest distillation of the Grime Stone Records owner’s sonic inclinations. This, of course, means an abundance of sounds usually excluded from the black metal canon paired with its more traditional elements. For most of the record overdriven tremolo picked guitars are replaced with grime-encrusted clean tones and instead of the usual banshee snarl and shriek, Abysmal Specter sings in half clean-sung, half-distorted yelp that lends itself well to the surprisingly anthemic nature of the songs. Opening track “Max Schreck’s Dead” (a reference to the German actor best known for his role as Count Orlock) contains a plethora of hummable moments punctuated by stabs of shanty sea synths, and “Unbelievable Face of Evil” has one of the catchiest choruses in the genre to date.
While it’s easy to focus on the wonky elements of Bloody Keep’s music, when Abysmal Specter does commit to the black metal bits they are equally as impressive. Closing number “O Vampire Of The Night” embraces the more orthodox elements of the genre, with a mid-tempo blackened punk stomp laying the tracks for Hammer Horror-inspired synths reminiscent of early Cradle of Filth. His ear for melody and feel remains unparalleled, and the execution though sloppy, has that mysteriously endearing quality rawer acts in the genre are known for.
Black metal has always has always had an undercurrent of ridiculousness underneath the stern posturing, something that Abysmal Specter, Bloody Keep, and Grime Stone Records at large bring to the forefront of their sound. Over the last year they’ve proven you can have fun with this style of music, something the underground has been extremely receptive to. This is black metal Varg Vikernes would deeply disapprove of, a badge of (dis)honor I’m sure Bloody Keep would wear proudly.