Seagrave is the solo-project of an Austrian musician named Jay Trainwreck (which is perhaps the best pseudonym ever conceived in the history of extreme metal). Fans of the more melodic side of black metal might recognize him from his other musical playgrounds of Harakiri for the Sky and Karg. Although Karg is also a solo-project for Trainwreck, he somehow deemed it necessary to create another outlet in which he takes care of all of the vocals and instrumentation. One might expect (and hope) that Seagrave sounds at least quite different from his other musical endeavours, however, this is only partially correct. This debut album, Stabwound, is much more a combination of his various musical inspirations. Such a culmination can and often does go wrong, but in the case of Seagrave, he has managed to craft a strong release which might be considered his best work overall.
At its core, Stabwound is built on a style of black metal that has little or nothing to do with its traditional form. The sound is based on a certain kind of post-black metal which—only a few years ago—was quite famous, especially in the German-speaking realm. The vocals are more shouted than screamed and the riffs tend to be lighter, less hypnotic, and more direct. Bands like Agrypnie, or even certain parts in the music of Dornenreich, have made this kind of metal popular, although traditionalists have always wrinkled their nose about this mixture of styles, mostly because the dark and sinister aura is quite often lost.
Seagrave, however, do not shy away from this style and Trainwreck knows what to do in order to write interesting songs. The opener, ‘Pillage de Tomb’, starts furiously and immediately sucks the listener into his world. Another fast song is the melancholic and seven-minutes-long ‘Down with the Wolves’. Here, Trainwreck uses unusual harsh vocals which constitute a nice contrast to the rest of the album. Although the track is chamfered with a short atmospheric interlude in the middle, ‘Down with the Wolves’ focuses—as the opener did—on aggression and direct impact.
On ‘Harvest in June’, Trainwreck shows his softer and calmer side; the song opens with dreamy and twilight-inspired guitar work before the drums and faster riffs unfold themselves. The passages here are nicely and intelligently interwoven, and one will surely encounter well-crafted hooks, riffs, and melodies. No doubt, the elements themselves are not really innovative, but Seagrave manages to let the listener forget that he or she has heard this or that movement before—the flow and the songwriting are just too good. The same stands for the last track, ‘Bonjoure Tristesse’, with its beautiful guitar intro—a clear reminder of early Alcest releases. It heralds a time to dream and wither away. ‘Bonjoure Tristesse’ is also the one track in which the bass-line is an essential and quite interesting part of the song as a whole.
Lyrically, Stabwound has less to offer than musically, but at least Seagrave avoids the usual cliché-ridden lyrics present in extreme metal. In some songs, one can find wise sayings, ‘You must have wandered through the darkest dales to appear at this bold cliffs you can’t step further on‘ (‘Manifest XII’). Others seem to deal more with some kind of drug addiction: ‘Down with the wolves; down with my addiction‘ (‘Down with the Wolves’). And others are mostly poetic descriptions of an inner darkness and sadness: ‘To maintain my memories, I’ll have to bury them abyssal. I should reach the rock bottom, so I can forget about myself’ (‘Bonjoure Tristesse’). One rarely gets any kind of unique insights by reading Seagrave’s lyrics; however, they fit the overall sound and the aesthetics of the album.
While the songwriting for the last Harakiri for the Sky album Aokigahara was a bit boring, Trainwreck has improved dramatically in this area with his work in Seagrave. The Austrian artist has crafted a striking debut which is not able to compete with the best that the genre has to offer, but shows clear potential. Perhaps he should consider focussing on one solo project and work stringently on only one album at a time. If the next album released under the banner of Seagrave is a little bit tighter, somewhat more innovative, and lyrically stronger, then we could look forward to a real blast of an album. For the time being, Stabwound remains a solid release.
01) Pillage de Tombe
03) Harvest in June
04) Down with the Wolves
05) Bonjour Tristesse