In Twilight’s Embrace is a 5-man Polish dark death metal band hailing from Poznań that has been around for the last decade, delivering two full-lengths and a demo up until today. With The Grim Muse their third full-length awakens the dead in an attempt to stand out in an overcrowded and overfed genre. Where many death metal bands show a painful lack of progress, In Twilight’s Embrace manages to actually stand out here. Compared to what I have heard from their previous releases, they show a remarkable degree of progress. In every single aspect of their music they have grown considerably, a rare yet most welcome observation. Add to this the truly great cover, a strong production and the signs for this being something special are good if not excellent. Well then, does this mean The Grim Muse is a flawless album, effortlessly taking the crown in every album of the year competition? Only one way to find out…
The instrumental opener Postmodern Postmortem throws you off track with its doomy riff and even though it does kind of build up to what is coming next it in no way really prepares you for it. Whatever room for guessing what kind of metal band you’re dealing with here Postmodern Postmortem leaves, Dystopian immediately dismisses. Dystopian is a full-blown death metal track, despite the furious drum rhythm and the at times screaming guitar riff that you’d rather expect in a black metal song. However, it’s not decided just yet. To add to the confusion Der Hellseher has distinct thrash metal influences when it fires up, where song number four, A Wolf I Remain, again has a robust portion black metal influences.
In fact, the entire album has strong resemblances to black metal and, be it a little less obvious, thrash metal. The combination of melodic death with the significant black metal influences makes The Grim Muse a varied and downright vicious piece of work with a very unnerving, dark, almost haunted atmosphere. The guys from In Twilight’s Embrace managed to make everything on this album contribute to and intensify its sound. The often raw, sometimes enchanting, but constantly changing guitar riffs and sporadic solos, provided by Leszek Szlenk and Piotr Steppa, make sure you have no reason to wander off when listening to this album. From the aggressive riff-on-steroids in No to the thumping neck-breaker in the awesome song Chainclad, these two definitely tick all the right boxes. Even the Spanish guitar in the title song, which is sang by At The Gates’ front man Tomas Lindberg, is spot-on.
Of course there’s more to this one than the two guitarists, the at times bone crushing speed of the drums, played by Dawid Bytnar, also heavily contribute to the brutal sound on this album. Dawid seems to have no problem switching between different genres and thus speeds. He seems equally at ease at ultra-speed as well as at slow, doomy hammering. He is expertly backed up by bass player Marcin Rybicki, who is responsible for the excellent production in his own studio. Even though the speeds he has to keep up with sometimes break the sound barrier, he is never out of sync, as if it costs him no effort whatsoever.
And then there’s Cyprian Łakomy, the voice of In Twilight’s Embrace. His great growls finish the job his fellow band members have started in every single song. His reach is limited on this album, but that is solely due to the nature of the songs, not due to a limited capability of Cyprian himself. Sporadically he does change from growls to a higher pitched scream or, even more sporadically, a clean voice, proving he definitely is capable of a much wider reach, but in all honesty, there’s absolutely no need for it on this album.
Musically The Grim Muse is solid as a rock, a true gem in a genre that only had to close its eyes to be pronounced officially dead. The perfectly balanced mix between raw, ripping, thrashy death metal and eerily haunting black metal makes for an awesome listening experience, with a fantastic production to go along. The member’s skills have grown exponentially over the years, placing them close to the top of the food chain. It has been long since I have heard every single aspect of a band show this much progress and it really makes me curious to hear whether they keep on evolving at this pace. If so, the sky is the limit I’d say.
That leads me back to the question I asked earlier: is The Grim Muse album of the year material? As to be expected there is no clear answer to that. Obviously it depends on your musical preference. I’m convinced this one will have plenty of first places among the fans of the genre, as well as among fans that are interested in multiple genres. It simply is that good, so yes, it is album of the year material. If, however, you’re not an MDM fan you’re not likely to put this high in your top 10, but, judging by the quality of this album, it might very well still make it to the first ten on your list. Give it a try, I’m sure this album will win quite a few new fans. And ending by stating the obvious: if death, black or even thrash metal is your cup of tea, you should not waste any more time and get this one. Fast!