Grand Belial’s Key are the sister band of Arghoslent, sharing the same mastermind Gelal Necrosodomy alias Pogrom. GBK creates music in a similar vein to that of Arghoslent but through a Black metal lens to achieve very similar conclusions. Relying on the genre’s predisposition to incite Blasphemy, Gelal and co. assault both Christianity and Judaism with lyrics that show a deep understanding of both testaments. Musically there is a lot to be enjoyed as the band happily celebrate their crushing of Abrahamic faiths but cannot form the narratives to more aptly communicate such a message.
The production of the record though digital, exceeds that of more recent Black metal releases. The drums swell in volume as one would expect from an acoustic and have the huge bounce more associated with Hard rock bands that remains clear even through the faster passages. The main advantage of the drum sound is during the victorious parts of each composition, the drums add a powerful military feeling that complements the music perfectly. The bass hides behind the rhythm guitar as the custom dictates and thickens the sound while sticking to the root notes played by the guitar. The guitars are slightly over compressed as this was the period where digital recording would allow more and more metal bands to achieve pristine recordings, to the point of neutering the compositions themselves. GBK avoid this and the guitar sounds fairly natural though well played by Gelal. The vocals stick to a fairly deep Black metal rasp but diverge into a mocking off key singing voice or to a subtler toneless throatier voice. The vocals filled with hate but also allowing themselves to enjoy their conquest by mocking their fallen enemies.
Simple down picked power chord melodies that owe a lot to similarly minded NSBM bands and their RAC influence constitute the main form in which the melodies are presented. This allows for the band to shift effortlessly from similar ideas without being held back by the burden of rhythmic coherence. Flowing elegantly between tense chromatic riffs to then release bursts of triumphant consonant melodies is the Modus Operandi of the compositions here. Building short term tension that then explodes into melodies that are extended licks from Mercyful Fate’s repertoire but extended through repetition. Though all the compositions follow the methodology of Black metal riff to Heavy metal riff to long outro. The way that the first two parts are executed remains exciting and fresh due to the ability that Gelal has to create great melodies in the aforementioned styles and to glue them together perfectly at every opportunity. GBK state their intentions in the simplest of manners, eschewing the more complex narratives structures of other Black metal bands in favor of the arrangements famously utilized by the more adventurous Heavy metal bands but fail completely at doing so.
The arrangements present the weakest element of this album, more often then not they completely undermine the power of the individual elements as each idea is well planned and mutates accordingly but for some reason, GBK seem to be unable to recycle their ideas after their initial appearances. Therefore none of the compositions reach cathartic climaxes nor do they conclude in a satisfactory manner. Most of the song endings drag on endlessly without meaning or try to add last minute meandering ideas that just prolong the running times without any purpose. Were the songs cut down to shorter sub three minute compositions many of the issues regarding the compositions would disappear as the tracks start of strong and develop well before the immediate climax. Once the triumphant Heavy metal melodies have worn out their welcome, so do the compositions as seen most evidently on the song “Fecal Parturition” which after a few repetitions the pseudo-chorus transitions to a mainly consonant melody with just one angular note to add tension but falls flat as soon as the keyboard enters.
Gelal has been very consistant on this album as each composition features consistently good ideas that are there to serve a singular purpose but once the centerpiece melody has completed its objective there is nothing else left to enjoy. A short in the style of Havohej’s Dethrone The Sun of God with some inspiration from Ildjarn on how to keep forward momentum with a limited set of ideas would have made this one of the better USBM releases. This remains a fun listen for those few times when one wants to listen to epic and irreverent Black metal but eventually the listener should return to either Arghoslent or Don’t Break the Oath.