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Perished and Forgotten (2002)

Perished and Forgotten is the first full-length album from Graven. Released on Undercover Records in January 2002, this album is one of the better ones to come from the German underground in recent years. Unfortunately, like most other black metal bands from their country, Graven continues the tradition of imitating the Scandinavian sound, while doing very little to add to it. They are quite efficient at doing so, similar to bands like Paragon Belial and Katharsis, but they do absolutely nothing to differentiate themselves from the legions of others that have picked up on the same influences.

While listening to this album, it is impossible not to notice the glaring similarities to the early-'90s Norwegian bands. Most of the songs are fast-paced, centered around cold tremolo riffs and pummeling drums. Rather than just utilizing the same style to create something of their own, Vargsang and Vronth rarely stray from familiar territory. Songs like "Ravens Call of Death" and the title track call to mind the early work of Darkthrone. In particular, Under A Funeral Moon seems to have made a strong impact on these two. Many of the guitar melodies, drumming and, especially, vocal patterns are clearly derived from Darkthrone's third L.P. That works out well, since some of the lyrical phrases were lifted straight from the writings of Fenriz. However, Graven's hero-worship is not one-dimensional. "When Funeral Winds Arrive" shows more of a Mayhem influence, regarding the riffs themselves. The possess more of an evil and nocturnal feeling, though the vocals still sound like a tribute to Nocturno Culto. Shades of Emperor and Strid can be detected in songs such as "Ravens Call of Death" and "Storms of Impure Blood", respectively. The most memorable track of the entire album, "Of Misanthropic Spirit", possesses more of a mixture of influences, hearkening back to classic albums like De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Pentagram and the aforementioned Darkthrone effort. The freezing cold tremolo melodies cut right through you and put you in a trance-like state. As the song progresses, a haunting lead solo possesses your mind, adding depth to the sound. As it draws to a close, keyboards are used, tastefully, to help accentuate the dark and epic atmosphere.

The overall sound is somewhat raw, but quite powerful as well. The guitars and vocals are the primary elements showcased, here. Despite the obvious influences, the band opted not to go for the thin, fuzzy guitar sound so often used by their predecessors. The tone is still cold and dark, nonetheless. As for the drums, they are kept to the background, for the most part. There are times when certain things come through a little more than they should, like a cymbal crash. This is mildly distracting, yet occurring rarely. The vocals are loud enough to be heard fairly clearly, yet restrained enough to avoid ever drowning out the music, as is the case with some bands. In general, the production is typical of the underground black metal sound and suits the music, very well.

While it cannot be said that Perished and Forgotten is a unique or essential record, it is a very solid interpretation of the classic northern black metal sound. Even though a lot of the content is clearly derivative of other bands, Graven does well to construct the songs in an interesting manner and to shape them in such a way that the album never becomes dull. Though not on the level of the originators, this album should appeal to fans of other modern bands such as Sargeist and Clandestine Blaze.
(7 Feb. 2012)

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