With more and more black metal bands bringing out ever more clever albums, often with conceptual frameworks based on mainstream philosophical or sociopolitical ideas, and/or their almost as uninteresting emotional lives, it is nice to know some people still know how to play the fucking genre. Grima and their Tales of the Enchanted Woods would probably have been described as “generic” a decade ago, but now they are instead important standard bearers for what was always great in black metal.
What is offered here is back to basics, classic black metal heavily influenced by the more melodic side of Norway’s 90’s. The earliest works of Ulver, Forgotten Woods and Old Man’s Child echo through most tracks. Traces of older Swedish melodic black metal is also there, but nothing of the minimalism of Burzum or early Darkthrone. Also, there is nothing “progressive” or overly experimental to be found. There are some original aspects to Grima’s sound to be sure, if that sort of thing is important to you. The fact that they hail from Siberia is perhaps incidental, but there are melodies that you wouldn’t find on any Scandinavian album from the glory days. Also, the choice of synth sounds is often quite interesting – this reviewer swears there are notes of bayan to be found here, and they even sound rather acoustic.
Great riffing, mainly in minor, is complemented by decently programmed drums and competently played keyboards. The vocals are of the somewhat more high-pitched variety, but there are also growls and the occasional really high pitched squealing scream. It all works marvelously.
In the end, this album is more than the sum of its parts. Granted, it is probably more attractive to those of us who basically wish the development of black metal had stopped somewhere before the latest millenium celebration, but anyone who enjoys melodic, synth infused black metal of the slightly rawer variety should find plenty to like here. The album is available on a proper digipak, with booklet and all, from the suitably named label Naturmacht, while the band sells a digital download version.