GRAAL

Avant-garde Metal • Ukraine
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Starting out as Brainstorm (1992-97), this Ukrainian band from Sumy changed its name to Graal and released only one album in its short career and one split.

While based in black metal, the band exhibited a strong penchant for the expeirmental, progressive and downright bizarre. The album "Sigullum Naturae" has gone down in cult circles as one of the most adventurous metal albums in the 90s.
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GRAAL Sigullum Naturae album cover 4.50 | 1 ratings
Sigullum Naturae
Avant-garde Metal 1998

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GRAAL Gedankent.raum / Graal album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Gedankent.raum / Graal
Avant-garde Metal 2000

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GRAAL Sigullum Naturae

Album · 1998 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
By the 1980s metal was an established force to be reckoned with and while Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were becoming household names, other bands were seeking more adventurous avenues to unleash their metallic fury upon. While Celtic Frost was the first extreme metal band to go hog wild into the avant-garde, other bands like Finland’s Funcunt and California’s Mr. Bungle were crafting ever more bizarre metal music. Once the 90s hit it seemed like the floodgates opened for alternative everything and suddenly bands like Old, Pan.Thy.Monium and Faxed Head were going into ever weirder places. While these bands were influential in a wild and woolly way, it was probably the Norwegian band Ved Buens Ende with the landmark album “Written In Waters.” that gave permission to the more extreme black and death metal bands to reach for the stars.

After that seminal release, avant-garde and experimental metal began to flourish all over the globe with bands like Japan’s Sigh and Lithuania’s Anubi popping up, but perhaps one of the absolutely strangest metal bands to have emerged from the 90s came from the unassuming city of Sumy located in the northeastern part of the Ukraine. The band GRAAL evolved from the experimental death metal band Brainstorm which released two demos and unleashed their one album SIGULLUM NATURAE in 1998 which seemed to be the year when avant-garde metal reached a new pinnacle with strange new works by Gorguts, Maudlin of the Well, Unexpect and !T.O.O.H! hitting the scene. However sometimes the strangest things come in strange unheard of places and in the case of GRAAL, they delivered one of the weirdest metal packages even to this very day.

Even after listening to this one, it’s not quite clear exactly what you just experienced. Yes, there are plenty of black and death metal elements going on throughout the 43 minute run but there are equal amounts of psychedelic and progressive rock, snippets of circus music, flamenco, freeform jazz and just weird atmospheric technical bizarreness turned up to 11. Despite the extremely weird nature of this one, it was still officially released on the Moon label although it has only been released once on cassette. The album can now be readily heard on Kitsch Magik’s Bandcamp page. Unlike the Mr Bungle albums that preceded which were more goofy and jovial, GRAAL crafted a strange brooding mix of dark ugliness despite the genres jumping around and time signature deviations firing off like AK-47s. Like Ved Buens Ende, dissonant melodies are a major element that accompanies the heavily distorted black metal guitars, shrieking vocals other extreme metal orthodoxies.

What’s completely against the grain on this one is the inclusion of flute runs which is a reflection of the band’s affinity with Krautrock and some have stated that Brainstorm was the epitome of Krautrock dressed in death metal clothing. Add to that the progressive rock tendencies to incorporate King Crimson styled jazz-rock into the context of say early Enslaved with thick atmospheric layers of sound clouding up the skies. Despite the rambling segments that can resemble the most tortuous constructs of avant-prog bands like Henry Cow, GRAAL still managed to keep things mostly fitting into the extreme metal territory by adding enough extreme metal riffing and brutality to keep things from completely spiraling out of control which displayed a fair amount of restraint considering at many moments the album sounds as if it will completely derail into complete formless noise.

This one is really too weird for words. It must be experienced to be understood and not just once. For all its weirdness it makes me think of some sort of mushroom worshipping black metal band would come up with after one too many psychedelic trips, where all the lines between the psychedelic 60s and the extreme metal 90s suddenly merge in the timelines and this is the result. This will surely be too weird for many who like a sense of pattern recognition handy to process the musical procession but for those who crave the most deranged and depraved sorts of metal music that there is to be heard then this one will satisfy that craving for sure.

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