Epic symphonic black metal! If this genre appeals at all to you, buy this album. If you are not familiar with this genre, pick up this album to see what it is all about. As found in good symphonic black metal albums, you can expect: lush orchestration, complex arrangements, keyboards, clean vocals along with death growl vocals, great guitar and drum work, and an abundance of little nuances and extra bits that add so much to the overall atmosphere and listening experience but are often overlooked in the majesty of the sound on first listen.
Symphonic black metal from Norway typically brings to mind the band Antestor as the archetype for the genre and for good reason. With that in mind, Grave Declaration was founded by Thor Georg Buer who spent time in Antestor as bass and guitar player, so there is some instant credibility. To add more to the story for this album, Ronny Hansen and Robert Bordevik from Antestor lend their talents to some of the tracks on When Dying Souls Scream Praise. According to their facebook biography, Grave Declaration was started as a project to make metal worship songs, with many going in the same direction as David’s Psalms, where David finds hope and comfort in God despite the current situations he found himself in. Previously in 2008, Grave Declaration released an ep, The Nightshift Worshiper to good reviews, which is even more impressive as that release was a one-man project by Thor. For When Dying Souls Scream Praise, Thor has assembled some proper band mates of great skill and has recruited some excellent musicians for guest spots.
To adequately describe all the musical elements in this album would require several pages of text. What is most amazing is how well they have been assembled into a coherent soundscape. At times, I can almost picture a conductor leading an orchestra, while other parts, sometimes in the same song, bring to mind large guys with beards, leather jackets, and long hair swirling about in a helicopter-like manner. Songs like “Silence” start out with over a minute of orchestral music before the guitars and drums join in and then in the rest of the song there are times when each style dominates and times when they are joined together. Over it all are the deep, death growls for the vocals, with some sections of contrasting clean vocals. While the lyrics deal with not being able to find words to adequately worship God and in the end just being content with sitting in God’s house in silence, I have the sense that the music more than makes up for that in terms of praise, and the song fittingly ends with some light and airy orchestral music, perhaps as if peace has come. Little touches throughout the album, especially piano, really add an element of atmosphere and complexity to the songs and certainly enhance the listening experience, while lyrically the songs are filled with praise and encouragement for believers.
I cannot help but compare this to Omen by Antestor as both albums are of similar style, share band members, and have been released around the same time. Despite those commonalities, I feel these are quite different albums and yet still very similar. To be honest, I was anticipating Omen by Antestor to sound more like Grave Declaration and vice versa. Antestor is the legendary band, known by many for their sound, and When Dying Souls Scream Praise sounds to me as if would be a logical follow up to the Antestor album The Forsaken. Meanwhile, this is the first album by Grave Declaration and I would expect their first full-length album to sound like they have something to prove, which is how I perceive Omen by Antestor. I had the pleasure of reviewing Omen by Antestor earlier and I was impressed not only with the expected quality of the symphonic metal but also with the sense of urgency. Antestor had not released an album for seven years and Omen is an album full of sound and fury like they were a new band trying to make an impression, and that worked. In this case Grave Declaration is the band with something to prove and they have released an epic album that sounds as if they are the seasoned veterans at the top of their game.
1. Change of Heart
2. Come, Let us Speak
3. Fall Down
5. Reach for the Sky
8. Instrumental #1
9. Hardest Rocking God of all Time
10. In the Throne Room
12. Jeg er Frelst, a For en Nåde
Thor Georg Buer – Guitar, Vocals, Programming
Kristian Larsen – Guitar
Pål Haugland – Bass
Ronny Hansen – (Special Guest) Vocals
Robert Bordevik – (Special Guest) Guitars
Morten Søbyskogen – (Special Guest) Clean vocals
Heidi Rype – (Special Guest) Piano
Nickolas Main Henriksen – (Special Guest) Piano
The Nightshift Worshiper, EP (2008)
When Dying Souls Scream Praise (2013)
Record Label: Bombworks Records, March 2013
Video for “Change of Heart”