Black metal was the first sub-genre of extreme metal I really sank my teeth into. It all started with Satyricon’s Dark Medieval Times, a record that got me immediately hooked. I’ve enjoyed the additions to the sound over the years, as I see experimentation as a way to keep music from stagnating. With The Grand Noir, the latest release from Latvia’s Eschatos, you get a bit of a crash course in the various sounds you can hear in the black metal genre.
In just 6 tracks, Eschatos blaze through more ideas and sounds than many other bands do in their entire careers. Whatever your particular favorite flavor of black metal is, trust me, it’s represented here in some form or fashion. If you like your black metal depressive and moody, check out the Silencer cover, “Sterile Nails and Thunderbowels.” If you’re looking for something a little more brutal, with a touch of avant-garde, “In Whole Alone Is Good and Elsewhere Nowhere” has got you covered, with its jazzy time signatures, clashing notes, and creepy keyboard work that adds another layer of gritty tone. This record really has it all; there are d-beat/crust influenced sections, raw old school black metal sounding sections, symphonic blackened death, not a single stone goes unturned.
Eschatos execute each sound they explore seamlessly, never making a bumpy transition into a different sound or idea. The only drawback to this is that each song almost sounds like it should be on a different album, creating a somewhat clunky flow. One song might end on an atmospheric or symphonic tone, while the next starts out stripped down sounding like something from the early 90’s Norwegian scene. A little more uniformity would go a long way, but the production is at least pretty solid (really, it’s on par with just about anything else on a major label). With just a little more tightening of the screws, Eschaton could really become a well-oiled black metal machine. Ultimately, The Grand Noir is a really good record, with a lot of tones and ideas extremely well executed. If you’re a fan of any type of black metal, this is definitely an album worth checking out.