Cloaked in Decay by GRETHOR


Since 2007, GRETHOR have been a part of the Northern Virginia metal scene, and with their latest offering, this five-piece band will be painting the region, let alone the town, red. Dripping with malevolence and careening out of control, their latest EP, Cloaked in Decay, is a brutal exercise in death metal with a blackened soul.

The EP begins with “Wraith,” and the opening tinny wail gives the listener an immediate feel for the general atonality and dissonance the band works with. While not un-melodic, GRETHOR has a harsh sound, one that carries the anguish and terror of the music very well. Clashing guitar melodies are punctuated by churning, palm-muted riffs; cymbal rhythms take precedence in many sections, cleverly pushing the song forward. “Wraith” contains an excellent solo break that calls to mind the playing of Trey Azagthoth of MORBID ANGEL. Overall, this song is indicative of the majority of the record: fast, angular riffing, mind-tearing vocals delivered by Marcus Lawrence with the rage of a murderous shade, and undulating, crushing drums holding all the chaos together.

In general, GRETHOR’s sound is an amalgam of black and death metal bands, drawing direct comparisons with such luminaries as GORGUTS , DEATHSPELL OMEGA, and HUMAN REMAINS. The slightly off-center riffs, ably played by Brian Frost and Michael Lewis, dig into the listener’s brain, never quite ending up where you’d expect. Bassist Nick Rothe and drummer Anthony Rouse give a performance comprising one of dirtiest and most irresistible bottom ends I’ve heard from a local band. “Misery of Ignorance” jumps right into this sound, with an imposing lead riff and barreling double-bass overwhelming the senses.

“Organic Tomb” is another highlight of the Cloaked in Decay EP. The song begins with a gloomy guitar riff and skittering cymbal fills, lurking beneath the tortured screams of Lawrence’s vocals. The whole affair is dripping with doom, dragging the listener into bleak surrender. While on the slower side of GRETHOR’s offerings, “Organic Tomb” is the breakout track of the EP.

Part of Cloaked in Decay’s success in smiting the listener is the deft mixing and mastering, provided by Simon Callahan of PERMAFROST and Colin Marston of BEHOLD… THE ARCTOPUS. Indeed, Marston’s pedigree, having worked with groups such as KRALLICE, GORGUTS, and DYSRHYTHMIA, gives Cloaked in Decay a deep, hollow, and, ultimately, decaying sound. This tone fits GRETHOR’s aesthetic like an iron maiden: jagged, uncomfortable, and oh so metal.

Cloaked in Decay is not the kind of record that your average metal fan will fully appreciate. Dense song structures, essentially unintelligible vocals, and a thick, yet somehow empty sound make for a challenging, but rewarding listening experience. With a relatively new lineup and a slate of upcoming shows, don’t be surprised to see GRETHOR join the shortlist of American bands noticed by discerning metalheads around the world.

Ian Woods

Ian has a B.A. from James Madison University and far too much useless knowledge concerning the history of death metal. He always takes the time to attend Maryland Death Fest. When he’s not listening to black/death/doom metal, Ian enjoys running, whiskey, and good conversation.

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