Merrimack
Grey Rigorism

You can think of France’s Merrimack as a slightly known kult band because of their fifteen year existence and minimal output, or as a reborn band finding their voice only about five years back. All three of their full length studio recordings have come since 2002 and it is a safe bet most listeners only know the older stuff because of 2004’s compilation. The one thing that really stands out about Merrimack, and Grey Rigorism is  no exception, is adherence to the parameters of the style as set out by the masters of black and death metal, no innovation here, just pure devotion. I have been listening off and on to this band for a very long time. A song about the Norse gods generally gets my attention, and I have all the releases since but I never really considered myself a fan until they found their occult sensibilities, showing deeper convictions and more depth to their style of playing. Of Entropy And Life Denial, therefore  is the comparison piece for Grey Rigorism then, not the less focused back catalog. They have successfully and believably made the evolution from paganism et all to occult antichristian, the opposite of the path usually chosen by bands. I don’t begrudge the lyrical shift, they are much more convincing now.

So what do you get when you combine a band with a decade and a half existence and only three studio albums? Lot’s of ex-members for starters. Time between releases often means better quality because more effort was put in at weeding out the unsatisfactory parts. Not only do they know all the necessary ingredients for a potent brew, they know were to acquire the best quality ingredients, what log to overturn, which damp cave to dig in, which church to sift through the ashes of. Piece it all together at a careful pace with care and conviction and the result is an artfully crafted (for not only do they know what to gather, they know how to get the most out of each ingredient as well) multifaceted string of incantations sure to burn the entrails out of any passing priest.

Personally I like the shrieked vocals of their olden days better, or the ripped out rawness of the Sargeist split. The roared vocals are well done however. Speaking of vocals, if you remember the brief appearance of clean male and female vocals on “The Farewell” you will be glad to know they reprise it here and much more successfully at that. Sonically they have tightened up, becoming heavier and fuller and harsher and more polished all at once. This is modern production values on display. If you are a fan of the raw live feel of the splits, don’t fret, Grey Rigorism is only polished enough to reflect a vague image of your ugly mug back at you.
The long seven plus minute tracks work just as hard as the shorter ones to present punishing drums, artfully crafted leads, harsh growls and spoken word vocals, and a pacing that is even suitable for such tasks as grave digging. The heavy tone has an ominous vibe and the rich layers of guitars and bass both suffocate and uplift. Add in some samples, but not too many, and some blistering speed breaks, of which one can never have too many, and the result is a disk that outperforms Of Entropy And Life Denial on all levels. It is great to see a very accomplished act out do themselves once again. Some albums jump out as such a vast improvement that you no longer listen to the back catalog, Of Entropy And Life Denial was that turning point, now they have fine tuned it. For those that think this disk disappointing just wait for the next one, they are on the rise. I’d like to be able to mention Merrimack in the same breath as Behexen, Averse Sefira, Cirith Gorgor, Lunar Aurora, and with another album or two of this caliber I will be able to. They are positioning them selves to be taken seriously.

For fans of quality, either quality fans, or fans that want quality music, both apply, I’d like to say the narrow genre defining types that split hairs over ninety three different types of extreme metal should check this disc out as well, it will allow for many hours of your time trying to pigeonhole Merrimack into one of your little boxes. I’ll just call them majestic black metal. If I was to single out just one worthy track it would be “By Thy Grace,” the twelve minute poor man’s Funeral Mist.

All of you that have never given Merrimack a chance because their covers are not monochromatic or because you think they are paint by numbers and you’ve heard it all before, give me your address and I’ll come by and explain it to you in person, though be prepared to sign a waver before I begin as the discussion is likely to be inherently hazardous and I will not be held accountable.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Grimulfr
December 9th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    “Not only do they know all the necessary ingredients for a potent brew, they know where to acquire the best quality ingredients, what log to overturn, which damp cave to dig in, which church to sift through the ashes of…”

    The return of Grimulfr!


  2. Commented by: Biff Tannan

    Hmm. Being a big fan of “Entropy….”, I was hesitant about this one, because I’ve only heard bad things, or at best, mediocre things. Your review has gotten me intrigued, I suppose I will have to pick this up and give it a proper chance.

    Great review !


  3. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    And who said that metalheads were illiterate thugs…


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