On their compelling new album Rotten Garden, Russia’s Grima poignantly deliver on the promise of their woodsy aesthetic presentation with a sweeping journey into a musical world where the majesty of nature and thorough psychological unease meld together.
The duo performs powerful atmospheric black metal that feels more earthy than icy, which fits with the idea that drives the band’s songs, which center on themes of a sort of human subservience to nature. On Rotten Garden, Grima frequently sound quite direct, funneling their musical power centrally outward, as though reflecting some kind of heavenly light. The music alternates between — and ultimately intertwines — feelings of mourning and bliss, which seem reflected in the piece’s consistently formidable but rapidly shifting dynamics. There’s a lot of emotional nuance in here.
Thanks to the rather poignant melodies that course through Rotten Garden, there’s definitely somewhat of a folk-oriented feeling in the music, but that element doesn’t translate into any particular sense of all-consuming peace. Instead, the placement of the emotionally powerful melodies amid the blisteringly intense music feels somewhat disorienting, and not just physically — the music pushes a sort of inward mental unease with its twisting and sometimes a bit haunted-feeling sounds. Although it’s mostly a rather guitar and drum-centric experience, synths eventually appear that feel cold but have somewhat of a broad and jarring impact rather than something like a musical icicle.
Venturing into the world of Rotten Garden feels like stumbling into some isolated encampment in the far reaches of some vast stretch of forest. The broad majesty of the musical surroundings feels rather unmistakable — and Grima spotlight this element with their often rather unbroken music — but there’s also a steadily rising sense of tension.
Grima lay out the foundation for their songs from the very beginning, with a steady rhythmic undercurrent of intense but not unintelligible drums and forceful guitar melodies that stick to more of a sense of mourning than any kind of soaring sensation. On “Mourning Comes at Sunset,” the album’s second track, the duo’s rhythms hit with resounding power, like fiery lightning strikes.
On the album’s title track, the group’s sonic themes culminate into a richly powerful 10-minute long exploration of what seems like a kind of acceptance of the overpowering grandeur of nature. The song gradually builds into ravaging intensity, but there’s a decided focus in the sound, as though blissfully falling into the cycles of nature. Rotten Garden sounds coarsely foreboding, but Grima sound like they’re delivering a psychologically and emotionally resonant meditation on these themes, venturing into the shadow of ominous grandeur.
Listen to Rotten Garden below! The album is available via Naturmacht Productions.