As a rule, post-black metal generally means harsh vocals, blast beats, distortion, tremolo picking, sludgy guitar noise and dissonant progressions. Narrowing that down a little more, you get into the overall style and themes that bands channel these tropes into evoking, and post-black metal is, in essence, an attempt to branch out from in addition to the typical black metal topics of nature , nihilism, and (anti-)religion, you also get include anxiety, hopelessness and despair (Noise Trail Immersion, Downfall of Gaia), space and the cosmos (Darkspace), even occasionally joy and nostalgia (Alcest, Eneferens) among other things.
Belgium’s Soul Grip are a post-black metal band that come with pretty much every aspect of the post-black metal sound that you could possibly come to expect, noncommittally falling into the Downfall of Gaia (for lack of a better example) camp of aforementioned genre groupings, and their new album ‘Not Ever’ is a worthy, if a tad undistinguished exercise in its genre. I figured as much only a couple of minutes into the opening track Ton Rêve (Your Dream), and this isn’t an inherently bad thing, but it does mean that they need to bring more to the table than their genre dictates in order to hold my interest. It is possible for a black metal band to succeed on the sheer strength of their songwriting (a recent example being Eneferens beautiful ‘The Bleak of our Constant’) although, generally speaking, black metal isn’t really a genre that speaks through its songwriting, but one that uses its sounds to evoke ideas and feelings, much like post-rock or ambient music… or death metal.
Soul Grip succeeds, but only just, thanks to the riff-oriented hardcore tinge that permeates their music. It thankfully never veers too far into post-metal territory – the furthest it goes is through the track Never Leave, a five minute exercise in Isis (the band) worship – and instead showcases more of a blackened hardcore vibe with blast beats and some post-metal undercurrents. Post and ambient interludes rarely go on for longer than a minute before the distorted guitars return, and the longest song is the 10 minute closer, Fiend. The albums best moments are when its focussing less on being spaced out and more on playing dissonant, chuggy, headbang-able black metal riffs – almost akin to mid-era Immortal. This can be heard most on ‘Grand’ and throughout the 3-track suite ‘Grav.’
The band is helped immensely the production, which feels part way between completely natural and overly polished. The guitars are perfectly mixed, and intermingle with each other in entirely pleasing ways, and the drums are impactful if not completely pummelling; the bass and snare samples (if indeed they are triggered) are well-chosen, and stop the sound from becoming overwhelming. It’s a welcome change from the fatiguing, bassy, overly clashing production style that makes otherwise great bands such as Departe and Ulcerate so difficult to listen to over long periods of time.
Overall, Soul Grip are a quality band. Their style of post-black metal is far from unique, but it does just enough right to warrant re-listening.