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Svart (2013)
Rating: 8/10

Alongside Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Witchfinder General and Trouble, Pentagram were without doubt one of doom metal’s pioneers, a band so authentically oaken and made all the more evil by that distinctive Victor Griffin guitar sound. Now, the great riff monster is back with a new project, In-Graved.

Forget the countless slow motion doom bands currently polluting the planet. In-Graved are very much the real thing, churning out Sabbath-esque riffs delivered in Griffin’s own unique and aged style, and accompanied throughout by the guitarist’s Place Of Skulls bandmate, drummer Pete Campbell.

This self-titled debut album boasts several guest appearances, including Jeff “Oly” Olson (original drummer with Chicago’s Trouble) on the killer Hammond organ, Mike Puleo (Orodruin) on keyboards, and bassists Guy Pinhas (The Obsessed / Acid King / Goatsnake), Greg Turley (Pentagram), Ron Holzner (Trouble / Earthen Grave / Debris Inc.), Marty Swaney (Death Row / Pentagram) and Dan Lively (Sweet Cicada), with each one adding their own unique flavour to this mighty opus.

It’s great to hear the fantastic ‘Late For An Early Grave’ included. This track was written some years ago, and reminds me of a lethal concoction of Black Sabbath and Corrosion Of Conformity at their dirtiest as Griffin effortlessly combines grit, soul and mood as he barks, “I broke out of prison when I was 17. Looking hard at the world I was feeling mean”.

In-Graved are very much classic 70s doom metal, reveling in that Saint Vitus styled misery, but never once dragging the listener into depressive realms. ‘Thorn In The Flesh’ is an absolute monolith of a number that oozes into the room with that classic black riff, and backed with Olson’s drenching organ this is very much no frills rock ’n’ roll that should please anyone with a taste for the vintage.

It’s hard to believe that most of these tracks were pretty much unfinished business from sessions involving Victor Griffin and Pete Campbell, but thank goodness the dust has been stirred and these tracks resurrected. The album is very much a smooth ride, an opus that rides on the waves of the organ as the drums rattle beneath like a boat anchored in a thunder storm.

Griffin and company give us an insight into their varying moods. Album opener ‘Digital Critic’ is an upbeat chugger that – rather oddly for a man so out of time – commentates on the issues concerning internet anonymity. ‘Fading Flower’ is a half-hinted ballad, meanwhile. Elsewhere, we’re treated to a cover of ‘Teacher’, a Jethro Tull obscurity originally found on the B-side of the 1969 ‘The Witch’s Promise’ single, and the upbeat ‘Never Surrender’.

It’s hard for me to really pick a favourite track, such is the quality of songs here, with Griffin’s riffs and solos making this record a rewardingly antique experience; this type of almost basic style of metal never seems to date. And that is the power of artists such as Griffin, and his doomier relatives, with their ability to cruise through the years, sporadically releasing underrated material that has no reason to settle into trend.

Fans of real doom rock will find much to savour within this boiling cauldron of doom and, coupled with fantastic cover art, Victor Griffin’s In-Graved are no doubt the sort of band drafted in to entertain the lost souls who’ve just gained entry to the fiery depths of hell.

Neil Arnold

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