As mentioned in the review for the first half of this double album, The Black, Artists of War had labeled their creation "transcendental black metal". This label most incredibly applies to the The Grey. Recorded in about a week, The Grey is a forty minute cohesion of atmosphere, experimental fury, and lucid nightmares. Comprised of 12 tracks that alternate between interludes and full length songs, The Grey signifies untraveled roads for this reviewer and new territory for AoW.
The opener "[Intro/Altar]" bleeds directly into"The Exalted (The Grey Behemon)". As with the entire album, "The Exalted" displays Olsen's penchant for maddening bass and guitar lines. The song blasts away, with drum tracks that never let up and vocals that growl, roar and drone into oblivion. The calming interlude "[Decay]" takes us to the next monstrosity, "Neural Transit". This song grew on me after a couple listens, opening with a primal, abrasive chord progression and nihilistic grunting lyrics. The second half ascends into psychedelic death-visions of reborn eternities and the horror of enlightenment. The rhythm takes a turn for full-on prog metal that makes for the most spectacular part of any AoW song I've heard to date. The perfect blend of funk and brutality to cap off an excellent composition.
Another interlude, "[Ore]" reminded me fondly of Dethklok and leads fashionably into "Long Bow". This is another colossal track that opens with a heavy tremolo guitar/bass part over another blast beat. The guitar breakdown after the 1 minute mark is just fucking sick and leads to an intricate harmony that is both odd and incredibly fitting to the song. The lyrics seem to confront the introspection of man beyond reality, faced with the truth of impermanence or unable to confront fault.
The closing track, "Walls of Eternity" is the only truly long song on the record, coming in at over 9 minutes. This track brings the full force of The Grey back into perspective with AoW's other creations. There is plenty of fast, heavy blackness that meshes well with a welcome classic-metal chorus section that is vibrant with nostalgic atmosphere. Though perhaps a little longer than it needed to be, this tune closes the album out well.
To begin with I couldn't really get into The Grey because of its overuse of blast beats and tremolo, but upon several subsequent listens it has proven itself an apt testament to musical growth and experimentation. AoW has never done anything quite like this (and that shows) but its flaws are greatly outweighed by its substance. Taken as a whole, The Black and The Grey are testaments to the influence and proliferation of metal across its plethora of styles and sub-genres.