On their third full-length effort, Gräfenstein offer a savage beast of asphyxiating black metal with a subtle taste of thrash and careful use of melody thrown therein too. As far as I’m aware, the musical concept has remained the same thoroughout this German band’s history, so nothing out of the ordinary is to be expected of Skull Baptism, an album that is, however, really convincing in all its relentlessness.
Kicking off the album with ”Essence of Chaos”, it comes clear to the listener that this is indeed really brutal, if that is a fitting word to depict a black metal album that still has that cold, razorsharp sound. As the powerful, fast blast beats accommodate the seas of guitar tremolo and mid-range spews of the vocalist, and this all continues until the very end, Skull Baptism can be said to be a really exhausting album: no kidding, this album feels like someone suffocating you. This has something to do with the production, too, that is really chaotic, all instruments very loud.
Gräfenstein does know how to incorporate some melody to the music, too: ”Halls of Dawn” is a great example of that with its occasional mountainous lead guitar melodies, never forgetting the mercilessness either. The same applies to ”Icon if Sin”, as well, that flirts with surprisingly melodic thrash metal patterns. Through tracks like the aforementioned, it becomes easier to decipher what Skull Baptism is all about and I could not imagine the album without them... Or I could: the mere constant killing would get dull fast.
Skull Baptism took many, many listens to open itself to full glory. The incessant chaos might seem uninviting at first, going from an ear to another, but this is one of those examples of records that I’ve luckily ’had’ to listen to more than just a couple of times for reviewing purposes, and they slowly grow. Some nagging could be directed towards the drum sound as the snare drum sounds quite lifeless, as if it didn’t have a snare mat at all. Otherwise, Skull Baptism works (read: kicks ass) successfully even if the musical style is generally unsurprising.