In a time when those who blazed the trail for the proliferation of Black Metal and Death Metal throughout the world are now bending the knee to modernity and left field ideas disguised as progress, the hordes must be led by those unafraid to grab the reins and steer the way back to hell. Glad to step in and redirect the focus on to that which is pure and true are Sweden’s Third Storm. This is actually the band’s second chance for the release of The Grand Manifestation marks a milestone in that it is their first full-length release after breaking up some thirty years ago subsequent to making just a couple of demos. Thankfully, the band decided to give things another go in 2014 as they now stand ready to light the fires of the underground as they propagate their art, a concept album of eight monumental tracks. Read on to discover how Third Storm may just be the hope foretold by seers peering into the cloudy ether, the answer to a thirty-year prophecy.
The gates of hell explode open with the first track, “Prima Mobilae”. One immediately is taken by force, shown that the raw fury and primal rage that propelled the Scandinavian scene to the forefront of conversation in the early 90s has not been extinguished. Tremolo-picked riffs form the basis of the song, but it is the maniacal reckless abandon with which the drums are played that truly drives the song forward. Later, they prove their penchant for dynamics at a slower tempo is met with melodic guitar. This is quite the auspicious beginning to this album.
The second track, “As the Stars Watched the Birth of Eternity,” succeeds in maintaining the momentum created by the first track. When the band hits their stride with a groove of sorts accented by some deft lead work, a bridge is formed between sections of brutality. The guitar soon drops out leaving the bass to furiously carry the song with the vocals. This clever instrumentation is manipulated cleverly throughout as it opens the guitar up to color the song in myriad ways on a blank canvas as such. By the end, Third Storm have proven they know how to write multi-dimensional pieces, eschewing the faults of others less gifted in arrangement.
“Forgotten Deity,” the sixth track, yet again surprises the listener with its exposition of skill, fresh ideas, and inspiration. A remarkably soft and poignant classical guitar section opens the song up demonstrating a side of the band not yet seen. Soon, though, the Metal is rekindled with a Thrash riff made of triplets, a staple of masters like Sodom and Destruction. It is refreshing to hear how the band touches up different iterations of Extreme Metal, ones that would serve to limit other less-inspired bands. Third Storm are able to bend elements of Death Metal, Black Metal, Thrash, and more to their will. Simply put, the band does not let genre define them but instead are helping to expand and redefine the genre. When all is said and done, this song can be regarded as the most epic of the album. “In Wrath Enshrouded” brutally wraps up the album. After traveling through peaks and valleys, it seems fitting for the band to end with adrenaline.
What is truly striking while listening to this album is how the band sounds like they never went away. There is an air of class, perhaps even a blood-given right of aristocracy that permeates the material. This is a band playing at the top of their game and it is not an exaggeration to say The Grand Manifestation holds up solidly against albums of the past thirty years of Extreme Metal that are regarded as canonical. Heval Bozarslan, the original and current lead vocalist, proclaimed that this is what the band was meant to sound like all those years ago. One cannot help but wonder “what if?”.
The band assembled to launch Third Storm into this century is at the very cusp of mastery. As previously mentioned, the drum performance is simply ravenous. Never willing to settle on just anything to serve as the backbone, the drums explore multiple ways to keep things diverse and on edge. The bass performance must also be commended for with an ideal, snarling dirty tone and commanding presence, it betters the song at every point. The guitar tracks showcase two accomplished players with a bottomless well of creativity from which they draw their many riffs. Not just technically impressive, the lost art of songwriting is truly demonstrated.
Ultimately, it is the listener that is most rewarded. Indeed, it seems at times like the places of prominence vacated by the masters will remain so. Thankfully, though, Third Storm have regrouped, retooled, and are reinvigorated just in time when the scene needs them most. Yes, the flames are once again leaping in the darkness and the shadows have convened to instigate the fire within these musicians. This is a remarkable album and one of the year’s absolute best.