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Grímsvötn, named after Iceland’s most active volcano, is a perfect name for the black metal that spews forth from this release. Originating from one man’s disgust at the current state of black metal and its ‘trendy’ counterparts.
Grímsvötn is the creation of one Lord Forneus, who has other projects besides, most notably Mists of Poveglia, the world’s first (and only?) winter ambient project. Hopefully this should give a very quick insight and rendition into what you’ll expect from this release. If Lord Forneus’ mission here had been to make the most grim, ugly and dirty sounding black metal, then mission accomplished! Think Beherit meets Hate Forest, with a good dose of Xasthur thrown into the volcanic compositions.
Fundamental guitar work and drumming make the base of all tracks presented, but worry not, this isn’t your typical ‘underground black metal’ album with extra added hiss. Instruments are audible and well executed, with compositions ranging from medium – lengthy creations. Fast and aggressive tempos are the main build of this release, though a couple of mid-paced tracks appear. The tempo of each track generally remains for its duration, changing from track to track, rather than within the compositions themselves. Repetition is used, but not to the degree of other bands using it in excess, claiming that it ‘adds atmosphere’ or ‘it’s hypnotic’. Good, solid song writing that serves its purpose needs to be commended, and that’s what’s here! Thick and crunchy, yet harsh guitar tones that dominate tracks, and drums that perch perfectly into the mix. Though vocals are scarce, they’re your accustomed distorted rasps, delved deep within the walls of enriched sound, complementing the structures and foundations laid by the powerful guitar work.
Ambient passages are also present within the recording, as either a stand-alone track or as intros to others, consisting of field recordings, wintry winds and densely layered keyboards. Lord Forneus’ experience of using such equipment shows through with prowess. These aren't overly lengthy, and thus don’t over stay their welcome, clearly showing the competency of the man behind them. No bass guitar is present on the album, but it’s not overly noticeable.
The only downfall to me, is the track placement of the ambient passage at track 5, I just felt it momentarily slowed the magmatic flow of the album. Was this purposely orchestrated, to create 'breathing' space from the onslaught of the tracks previous? Perhaps, but I still feel the album as a whole would have benefited from either placing this track elsewhere, as either an intro or an outro.
It’s easy to become lost in a sea of sub-par bands, as there are hundreds of 1-man bands out there, and all but very few are worth an investment of your time, Grímsvötn is one of the few. Standing out and standing proud with this monument of hate, despair and disgust. Whilst it’s certainly not ground breaking, Lord Forneus appears to be dead-set on propagating that early black metal aura, and by all accounts he’s succeeding.
It’s refreshing nostalgia on a tried-and-tested formula. Showcasing that by definition ‘underground raw black metal’ doesn't have to be over-shadowed by poor song writing. A release that is bringing black metal ‘full circle’ and taking a long overdue journey back to its roots.