Another year comes to a close and that means lists. I never really get excited when the prospect comes around because a list is never as complete as you’d want it to be. In a way, it’s a moments recollection of all the good music that came by in the past year. Still, it’s important to look back and share with the world what it might have missed otherwise.
I can mention a load of bands I would gladly have included here. For example, I didn’t really get around to listen properly to Enslaved and Converge’s new records and I had to chose to omit the likes of Power Trip, Akercocke, and Pillorian. Oh, and Dool came to me in a big way. Well, you can’t have it all, but here is the list as it is:
I would also like to express thanks to the labels that have kindly supplied me with promo materials and support for realizing my goals. In particular thanks to Transcending Obscurity and Qabar Extreme Music PR. Also, thanks to Echoes & Dust for lending weight to my 195 bands project, by publishing these interviews.
May 2018 be a great year in music again. Live long and prosper.
Label: Naturmacht Productions Band: Grima Origin: Russia
With their debut album ‘Devotion To Lord’ the band Grima definitely left an impression. Lord was not anything Christian though, it was nature in its full glory that this atmospheric black metal band worships. Now they return with their second full length ‘Tales of the Enchanted Woods’. I’d like to point out that I recommended their record as the best of the year this far for 2016 in the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, the daily Roadburn zine.
The studio project by Morbius and Vilhelm hails from Krasnoyarsk, which is in the heart of Siberia. Krasnoyarsk is not a hovel in the snow, but a city with almost a million inhabitants. The city was a center for the gulags and even in Tsarist times was a place where dissenters were sent to. It says a lot about the sort of place this must be, though there’s little to go on regarding Grima.
To start with this album, maybe start with the cover that immediately offers a particularly fairy tale like design and folkloristic vibe. The album kicks of with the grand ‘The Sentry Peak’, which really works as a brief intro to the album, lining up the second song ‘The Moon and its Shadows’, which is a pleasure to behold. Atmospheric and powerful, this record fits right into the Norse nature-loving movement of the black metal genre.
The sound is tempered, let go only in minimal waves when most effective. The build-up reminds me a bit of Downfall of Nur, one of my favorite bands. It sounds like there’s even an accordeon present, but it’s probably the synths. Those help with the fairy-tale/eastern vibe of the record, giving a moment of respite and evoking images of strange towns with hospitable folk playing music around the fire.
The band really knows how to be theatrical, without sounding cheesy. The synths are everywhere to add to the overal experience, to paint the sound in many colors. The vocals are varied two, which gives you the feeling that this band is much bigger than just the two members. Noteworthy is the track ‘Never Get Off The Trail’, where we hear a deep shoegaze influence and even some postrocky soundscaping on the following ‘The Grief’. As a listener, it is as if the song bares its essence to you. It shows it’s inner magical stream of music. Excellent black metal enriched with a sense of the magical and unknown of the forest.
Grima succeeds in probably making one of the most amazing black metal albums of the year, but also a journey into nature where the true beauty of an untamed land shines through. The balanced production and the rich sonic textures offer a much bigger production than you’d imagine. I sincerely hope this album gets the recognition it deserves. It shouldn’t be lumped into the ‘archaic folk’ metal category, much like other great music from Russia. This seems to receive little interest from the western press. This album embodies the magic that black metal music always has had for me. It embraces nature in the way only a specific branch of the genre does. A joy to listen to, while true to the genre.
Sounds from that ol’ Underground, this time with black metal from Grima, Ancestors Blood and Bucovina. Also in this is In Gowan Ring who add a bit more folk after Bucovina’s folk metal. Enjoy reading and listening please.
Grima – Devotion to Lord Naturmacht Productions
No, this ain’t no unblack metal band, this is nature worshipping, organic sounding intense Siberian black metal. This duo from Russia might be that answer to the Cascadian wave from the USA from the frozen wastes of the tundra. Ok, I’m romanticizing the whole thing now, but there’s s a truth to it. Naming it atmospheric BM, Grima could have just as well decided n the post-black metal description, because their sound is far removed from the fire and brimstone roots of black metal.
The shades of trees, the stingy needles of pines and the cold fog on the floor level are not hard to picture when listening to the music of Grima. Bewildered and lost in the middle of a primordial forest, one finds quiet and peace, but also the full intensity of nature as blistering salvo’s of guitar play imitate wind, water and earth in its full majesty. The music can be beautifull, but also cold and biting, with long, wavy passages of guitars and the drums brought really back in the mix. A great record for those who love the BM nature worship. Props.
Bucovina – Nestramutat Lupii Daciei
Hailing from the Carpathian mountains, this folk metal band from Romania has been around for 15 years now. This is their third full length, and it’s a special one at that. They demonstrate that Romania has more to offer than Negura Bunget, who used to be on the same label actually. Bucovina now operates through their own label Tara de Sus. The band explores in their music the ancient Dacian heritage and Romanian lore in a romantic fashion. The band implements folk influences and storytelling into their sound.
That results in a truly stunning album, where the vocals actually take a main role in it. While blistering blast beats bludgeon their way forward, the band also has melancholic singing, which appears to lean close to spoken word and chanting at the same time. The music is epic, but never bombastic and has interesting structures in its build up. The timbre of the sound is very earthy and at that also rather catchy I’d say. It results in distinct sounding album, that reminds me most of the likes of Dalriada. Recommended listen.
Ancestors Blood – Return of the Ancient Ones Heidens Hart
The unmistakable cold sound of this band reveals the Finnish origin instantly. Cold, harsh Finnish pagan metal, paying homage to the forefathers of the ancient times with magic and rituals and all. The album counts 50 minutes of dense, atmospheric black metal to commemorate the pagan times in a glorious manner. The band themselves describe their sound as Esoteric Heathen Metal. A fine description I would say, for a rather particular sound that the band embraces.
The sound of the Laitila band (that’s a town, not a weird spelling of Latino) is landing on you like showers of rain in a gale of wind. Continuous, gracefully waving windows of sonic distortion, combined with atmospheric synths that give an almost sacral, ritual aura to the sound. The vocals are wild howls, a deep despair oozing from, in the same way the rest of the sound envelops you, slowly bathing you in grief and mournful rememberance. There’s definitely a lot of emotion in the sound, without ever trying to really seem grim and dark. In a sense the comparison with Summoning makes a lot of sense to me when listening to the record. The way the keys and guitars work together, offers an epic bit of black metal, but without any sort of hope. The record has been out since 2007, but has been put out again. A good choice I’d say for the label.
In Gowan Ring – The Serpent and the Dove Les Disques du 7eme Ciel
Music does not need to have full on blast beats and bleating vocals to overwhelm. Music can be quiet, gentle and measured to achieve maximal impact and that is exactly what In Gowan Ring aims to do. This is the first album in a long, long time. Poetry, nature and folk instruments and stories of both stoens and angels, as the description states. This is an album to dream away with on these long, cold winter nights.
Gentle music trickles out of the speakers, with minimal sound and therefor so much more power. The opening strings immediately evoke the autumn. Wind swept fields and a rainy sky, with trees on the horizon. Then the clouds break and the tranquility of ‘Thousands of Bees’ is like a warm sun beam on your face in a dense forest. The beautiful words strung together warmly by the American B’eirth. His vocals lull you into dreamy realms of a different, other world that once was and maybe once may be.