Потьма — whose name appears to be pronounced “Pot’ma” — are an apparently relatively new crusty black metal project from Mordovia, Russia, and on their formidable new release, they thematically explore the terrors associated with Dubrawlag, a Russian prison camp in the area that once was a part of the Gulag prison system and is presently used by Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service.
The sounds of Dubrawlag, Potma’s new release, are bleak and unforgiving. The record — which was apparently recorded at a club called Secret Place in the Mordovian city of Saransk — feels crushing to a point of unmistakable psychological unease. It’s not just a physical impact — the music carries mental strain, too.
Potma sound utterly scorching, with hoarse and seething vocals that help establish the unmistakable seismic force. The songs feel brutal – mostly, they rush forward with electrifying energy, and the tones here are vicious, with guitars that feel drenched in some kind of disorienting sludge, snaking basslines that feel menacing, and hard-hitting drums.
The songs feel like the sound of a devastating and somehow fiery hailstorm that leaves obvious destruction in its wake, and the tracks feel uneasy as they shift between dynamics as though reflecting the sudden collapse of supporting ground, providing the poignant psychological edge.
The group’s songs carry a grimy hardcore vibe, which makes the album feel especially physically (and psychologically) formidable. None of the music feels particularly clean or crisp, but the pieces of the songs all feel very striking and strong — there’s not a particular sense of uncertainty. When the band aren’t performing in a familiarly blistering black metal pattern, they lean into confrontational crust punk that feels like facing off against a tidal wave of swampy sludge.
Within a minute, track one arrives at a scorching blast beat section racked with ominously snaking guitars before launching into galloping punk rhythms, while the follow-up track features a particularly atmospheric mid-segment with rumbling drums before captivatingly devolving into streams of uneasy chaos. Slower tempos temporarily appear towards the beginning of track three and towards the midpoint of track four, but the agony marches on as the music repeatedly returns to a core push of blistering blast beats and grueling storms of guitars.
Amidst the billowing menace, the raw power of the instrumentals really shines, and the whole experience feels movingly compelling, like a hellish musical gravitational pull.
The aptly orchestrated instability in the songs feels overpowering, which solidifies the psychological tension in the music. The group sounds like they’ve really dived in to the psychological state that accompanies scenarios like those suggested by the apocalyptic lyrics and feel of the album. The drama in these sounds makes the emotional experience feel metaphysically agonizing, as though peering out across a cosmic firestorm bearing down across all visible surroundings.
Check out Dubrawlag below: