(Andy Synn has thoughts about the debut album from Anarcho-Punk Black Metal crew Gravpel)
So much for the “tolerant” left, am I right?
In all seriousness, I’ve always found it pretty ridiculous that bands who espouse so-called “left wing” views are assumed to be soft, sensitive snowflakes… since not only is that patently false, but it also ignores the fact that Heavy Metal, from its very outset, has always been rooted in this end of the political spectrum, hence its rich history of anti-fascist, anti-authoritarian, and even anti-capitalist sentiment.
Of course, Metal as a genre hasn’t always had the most nuanced grasp of politics, I’ll give you that, especially when you consider that most bands tend to define themselves by opposition – being against something, rather than for something – in a rather reactionary, and often self-defeating, kind of way.
But while Swiss Black Metal quintet Gravpel most definitely aren’t afraid to let you know exactly what they stand for – which is taking Black Metal back to its Punk roots and giving an almighty “fuck you” to all the Nazis, bigots, and fascist sympathisers attempting to use the genre to spread their fucked-up world view.
Of course, you don’t necessarily have to agree with the band’s message to appreciate their music, and if you’re still reading this far then chances are you’re at least a little curious as to what Gravpel sound like, right?
Well, if you go into Power to the Filthy Masses expecting a dose of unrepentantly and unremittingly aggressive Black Metal in the vein of early Mayhem, Marduk, and Gorgoroth (the latter especially) then I doubt you’ll be disappointed, as every scorching blast, scalding scream, and strangling tremolo twist positively seethes with the sort of wild energy and wide-eyed intensity you only get with bands who truly believe in what they’re doing.
But for all their primal fury and demonic delivery, Gravpel are much more than just a tribute act to a bygone era, as not only do the band’s anarchist leanings come through loud and proud on songs like “Dividing Scars | Lines in the Dirt” and “A Revolution yet to Come | a Reality yet to Embrace” – both in the group’s cathartic, confrontational lyrics and in the way they mix and match torrents of blastbeat-driven brutality with passages of punchy, punky groove – but the album’s thrillingly raw, yet explosively volatile, production successfully captures the punishing power of their sound without stripping it of its ragged, jagged edges.
And while Power to the Filthy Masses is easily one of the most visceral and venomous albums which I’ve had the pleasure to encounter all year, Gravpel are also smart enough songwriters to know the value of a good, nasty hook now and then, whether that’s the grim ‘n’ grimy grooves of opener “Call to Action | Grind Them to Waste” and its throat-ripping rallying cry of “Refuse, resist, revolt!” or the hammering, hypnotic central refrain of the humongous title-track.
It’s not entirely perfect – the re-recorded “Of Violence and Structure” comes off as a little too clean compared to the filth and fury of the rest of the album – but there’s no denying that Gravpel have successfully seized the means of Black Metal production for themselves here. Only time will tell if it’s enough to spark a revolution.