GRIMA - FROSTBITTEN
OH THE WEATHER OUT THERE IS FRIGHTFUL
Grima have effectively pre-written an album review already by christening (a term they may not approve) their new release Frostbitten. It’s an apposite title. With a sound and aesthetic that borrows heavily from the sub-zero death zones of their native Russia, Grima have been gaining traction in BM circles for a number of years. Abnormal summer heatwaves and anthropogenic climate change might be causing dismay and havoc across the European continent, but it won’t thaw the inky, icy blackness of Grima’s juju.
With Frostbitten, Grima get off the starting blocks impressively. Gloomy Heart of the Coldest Land packs a dramatic punch, swerving from heads-down raw, high-velocity bleakness to high-end tragic prog reflection. Essentially the core of this album is bone-rattling, wintry BM that has an isolated, archaic shiver. The vocals from Vilhelm are caustic, pan-fried and sometimes sit lower in the mix to give a malevolently indistinct effect, like a rasping spindrift through trees. His delivery is carried out with conviction and venom, occasionally sounding banshee-in-a-blizzard similar to Dani Filth. The band, meanwhile, fulfil all the pre-requisite rawness, fury, and harshness that will keep the souls and hearts of purists in the deep freeze.
Yet there are, arguably, two principal elements that differentiate Frostbitten as a richer effort than an off-the-peg, pine-scented, chilly BM record. Firstly, Grima rightly flex a bit when it comes to stunts and tricks. Not only is the musicianship good but the band bake in some decent variety to keep the hostile topography of the listening journey interesting. Of course, Grima can, assuredly, deliver warp speed tremolo-fests with aggressive, slaloming cold riffs and furiously clattering percussion with the likes of Hunger God. The execution is tight yet organic. At their fastest and most blackened, it is an abrasive, freezing and compelling listen. The band do, however, have a penchant for high-quality sweeping, weeping melodies as showcased with Into the Twilight and the melancholic leads on Moonspell and Grief with its nifty blizzard sample. The soaring tragic hooks imbue the music with a recurring grimly majestic style yet Grima somehow retain a sense of low-fi isolation rather than overweening pomp. Another stratum to the band’s permafrost comes in folk-ish influences. Do any other BM bands use bayans (a type of button accordion)? Free spins if you do, but it hits you for six when the lone bayan (played by Sergey Pastukh) introduction of Winter Morning Tower wheezes out of the speakers. Ye the band have the neck to give this a try and it works well in what is the most folk-inspired track of the album. Moreover, the delicate ice-brittle plucks of the closer Mana is an arresting, wistful epilogue. Going further yet there are flourishes - albeit brief ones - of almost post-metallish big screen, wide wasteland epic spaciousness.
All these stylistic twists are woven into the sound and enrich, rather than detract from, the album’s aesthetic. This leads to the second standout quality of Frostbitten which is its sheer impact. You actually feel chilly listening to it. Grima have built a style and vibe that, although bound in many ways to legacy strictures of the BM genre, is delivered with thumping aplomb and verve. You get a sense of focussed, stormy intent which, along with the well-crafted, impactful riffing, slaps you about the face. Consistent, high quality, dramatic. Summer is cancelled.
Check out Grima's bandcamp here: https://grima.bandcamp.com/