Griffar - _Of Witches and Celts_
(ISO666, 2002)
by: Matthias Noll (7 out of 10)
Griffar is yet another entry in the ever-growing list of French black metal bands. For a change this is a black metal record which does not contain the slightest trace of Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum or any other influential black metal outfit you can think of. Musically Griffar are heavily influenced by early Iron Maiden and other traditional metal, spiced up with breakneck speed, raspy but unspectacular black metal vocals, a production that none of the Black Legions bands would have considered too commercial, and three out of four songs clocking in at around 13 minutes each. Even assuming that the production job was meant to be this way, this is still a pretty odd combination that gets delivered without any keys, female vocals or guitar solos. To my ears, especially the Murray / Smith signature in many of Griffar's riffs and melodies is even more prominent than on a record like, for example, Naglfar's _Vittra_ or certain very Maiden-esque parts on Cradle of Filth's _Dusk and Her Embrace_. I have no real clue as to how such material in combination with a garage-like production might appeal to someone who digs this type of music, which is usually delivered with the much more polished approach and superior musicianship of various, mainly Swedish outfits that add a good deal of death metal to the formula. Also, I have no idea how many closet-Maiden fans can be found among those who consider anything better than 4-track recordings to be a complete sellout and enjoy dwelling in misanthropic agony muttering "grim", "true" and "frostbitten" as many times a day as possible. What speaks for _Of Witches and Celts_ is that the four songs flow surprisingly well throughout their incredible length and never get boring or cease to make sense. In addition, most of the melodies and ideas Griffar use are of at least decent quality. Furthermore, some work has also gone into a two-pronged concept with lyrics that tell a continuous story, rather than having been tailored to suit and accompany the songs. So, despite somehow sitting in between chairs, _OWaC_ as a whole is a really enjoyable album which might appeal to those who like their traditional metal delivered the black and underproduced way -- but allow me to doubt that Griffar will sound the same next time around.

(article published 29/5/2003)

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