Gehenna – Unravel

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Review by Paul Castles

Indie Recordings

It’s been a while but finally Gehenna have emerged again, blinking into the sunlight, from the fjords and forests of Norway. Eight years on from WW, the last studio recording from the band, Gehenna have served up another offering to the dark Gods in Unravel. While not the most innovative offering ever to have been spawned in the Scandinavian black metal cauldron, this is still a fine piece of work that should be appreciated by anyone whose record collection still bulges with the likes of Gormathon, Gorgoroth and Darkthrone.

As is so often the way when a group picks up the pieces after a lengthy period in the darkness, Gehenna’s line-up has undergone more changes than a hotel room’s bedsheets. Now the only original band member within its ranks is the vocalist Sanrabb, whose distinctively destructive bark dominates throughout. Gehenna are now in their 20th year, although to say the Bergen boys are enjoying their anniversary is perhaps overstating things. With a persecuting desperation running through their blackened souls, Gehenna give the impression that enjoyment would be a chore rather than a pleasure. But for those who can connect with the corpsepainted quartet then Unravel is exactly what you should do with this release. Peel back the covers and crawl inside the lair of the doomed and the damned.

It opens with a stark toe-curling intro ‘The Decision’ that sucks you in before the guitars explode through the mist, closely followed by the strained screeching of Sanrabb.  The opener is a slowburning crusher that barely raises its head above the covers but quivers with trademark Norwegian narcissism. ‘Slaktaran’ maintains a pounding relentless beat but on the following title track the drummer ups his game some as Gehenna start to stoke the fires, throwing in larger coals and with greater degrees of urgency. ‘Nine Circles of Torture’ is pacier still, with Slaktaran, all arms and legs ensuring what is the shortest track of the eight on offer here, is also among the most best. ‘A Grave of Thoughts’ is another chilling chapter, a grinding agitated march through the festering barrenlands. It aches with menace and moroseness, with the clanging rhythm section provided by Skinndød, Sanrabb leaving Dolgar to hold court on bass.

There was a period in Gehenna’s past when their sound also touched on death metal but not anymore. This is methodic black metal, and while its charred heart may not connect with everyone, for those who live and breathe this dynamic diet of frosted destruction then Unravel will not be a disappointment. On ‘Lead to the Pyre’ Sanrabb again barks out his orders like some kind of twisted medieval warlord against a throbbing backdrop infused with hatred. Unravel closes its curtains, much as a crematorium would do, in suitably dark fashion with ‘Death Enters’. It’s another haunting somnambulant sacrifice to the black metal gods. I think they’ll be pleased with what they receive.

Gehenna 20137 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. The Decision
  2. Unravel
  3. Nothing Deserves Worship
  4. Nine Circles of Torture
  5. A Grave of Thoughts
  6. Lead to the Pyre
  7. End Ritual
  8. Death Enters