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Song You Need to Know: Gaahls Wyrd, ‘From the Spear’

Pummeling, eerie song makes you want to listen closer

The lyrics on “From the Spear,” the first taste of extreme-metal group Gaahls Wyrd’s upcoming debut, are mostly incoherent. At one point, frontman Gaahl growls, “I hold the spear, blood dripping”; at another, he moans, “I stare down from here.” But by and large the words’ intention is obscured, and that’s been the point with Gaahl’s music going back to when he’d leave his vocals low in the mix with his band Gorgoroth: Listen closer, try and divine the meaning from it.

Gaahl has always reveled in being one of extreme metal’s most enigmatic figures. He has fronted Norwegian black-metal bands for the past 25 years, including Trelldom, Gorgoroth and the underrated God Seed, and he’s contributed to the ambient folk group Wardruna. He’s openly gay – he was once named “Gay Person of the Year” in Bergen, Norway – and owns an art gallery in the city. He’s also served time for assaulting a man — allegedly collecting the victim’s blood in a cup and taunting him with it — and can’t tour in the United States because he’s a felon. His music, especially since the 2004 arrest, has reflected both hope and despair.

“From the Spear” alternates from a locomotive onslaught to a dusky goth-rock bridge before racing to the finish with more gut-rattling riffs. Gaahl’s bandmates include members of God Seed and the death-metal group Aeturnus, who play the song a tremulous quality that makes it all the more mysterious. It makes you want to play it again and again to try to decipher it.

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