Unexpected instrumentation is nothing new in black metal; if anything, it’s rapidly becoming a “go-to” technique in injecting a composition with a regional or cultural atmosphere. And while this is in no way a criticism of the approach in itself, it does require a bit more flair than usual to pull this off effectively. That said, it is still a more respectable option than just turning to synthesizers or keys, as it does usually mean a bit more thought given to the orchestration, musicians involved and sometimes even tuning. Grima, on their latest release for Naturmacht Productions, Will of the Primordial (stream/purchase here), follow this approach very well indeed, evoking the Russian winter at every turn, from the eerie accordion that introduces “Siberian Sorrow” and is revisited on “Howl at Night” through to the restrained yet effective sprinkling of keys throughout the album.
Alas, this technique - possibly due to the singular tonal entity that an accordion produces - is not without its pitfalls, the worst of these being repetitiveness. The instrumental album closer, while a classic reprise of the themes and sounds introduced before, meanders without giving a solid finality to the album - they could easily have just used the mid-album intermission piece than including the “variation on a theme” coda.
Enjoy the full album stream, courtesy of Naturmacht Productions:
However, on top of these remarkable and unique atmospherics, Grima also delivers some powerful, icy metal: rasping, serrated vocals over punishing rhythms counter the frigid atmosphere in a harrowing, full-body listening experience. There’s just enough second-wave virulence in the pagan themes to still rip through your very soul without getting bogged down in the gentle, folksy singalongs that usually typify this content. On top of this, Grima effectively delivers typically Scandinavian tremolo-picked melodies: “Blizzard,” for example, is a near-perfect illustration of no-frills black metal done right. Textbook, yes, purely original, no - but nevertheless a joy to listen to.
Besides minor quibbles, though, Will of the Primordial is a good example of the genre - easily comparable with Drudkh or even Winterfylleth: not just in terms of the soundscapes generated, but also by the reverence shown for cultural informants. Purely out of trivial interest, with no relation to the music itself, Grima also follows another extreme metal tradition - that of siblings working together. Morbius and Wilhelm are twins, following in the footsteps of Rotting Christ’s Tolis brothers. Many other examples include Arch Enemy’s Amotts, the Lamb of God Adlers, Gojira’s Duplantiers, Decapitated’s Kieltykas or even the Björlers of At The Gates.
A recent promotional picture of this gruesome twosome:
Will of the Primordial Track Listing:
01. Siberian Sorrow
02. Shrouded in darkness
07. Howl At Night
Run Time: 47:30 Release Date: August 3, 2019 Record Label: Naturmacht Productions