It’s interesting how black metal can be simultaneously so rooted in geography and place, yet also a global genre, with adherents all across the world. Garhelenth provide a prime example of why terms such as “Scandinavian black metal” no longer refer to a place, but a sound. The band, originally from Iran yet now residing in Armenia, play black metal of cold grimness that is, sonically, rooted firmly in Norway. As this might imply, their music on About Pessimistic Elements and Rebirth of Tragedy is heavily inspired by the second wave of black metal, but there’s also a sense of melody and melancholy to it that’s not far removed from DSBM, and a sense of character that is missing from most other devotees of Scandinavian black metal.
Following the requisite intro track – which features, of all things, a cackling witch – ‘Destruction of the Will’ gets the album started properly, racing ahead to the sound of burning churches. The furious riffs and galloping rhythm recall Gorgoroth very strongly – a comparison that’s hard to escape for much of the album – and the track is a punishing listen, filled with razor-sharp guitars and an aura of blasphemous violence, especially during its mid-tempo closing movement. Likewise, ‘Foolish Conscience’ is a vicious song, its energy such that it feels much shorter than it actually is.
It’s as the album progresses that it becomes more interesting, though – sure, those early tracks are good and strong, but what helps set About Pessimistic Elements… apart from its peers are those DSBM touches. ‘Self-Humiliation”s second half sees the track change from its original, second-wave inspired form in to something much more ominous and dark, with the repetitive melodies in the background bringing the likes of Shining to mind. Similarly, the melodies of ‘Moral to Pessimist’ are tinged with melancholy, painting a picture of darkness and mental anguish. When combined with the more typical Scandinavian black metal riffs and rhythms, it makes for an effective combination.
At just under a half hour long, About Pessimistic Elements… is a relatively short record, but this works to its credit. Its seven song duration is just the right length, leaving the listener wanting more. The album largely sticks to the kind of sound that will see those who worship at the altar of the mid-90’s embrace it, yet also has enough character to lure in those who are tired of such a sound. It may not reinvent black metal (nor is it looking to); instead, it is a solid half hour of trve furious, blasphemous rage, tinged with melancholy, taking an old sound and doing enough with it to make it sound as vibrant and strong as ever.