I've always thought "atmospheric black metal" was a bit of a misnomer. To me, the name implies a very wispy, maybe even ambient sound, whereas a lot of atmospheric BM has plenty of fire and brimstone to it. It just happens to be a bit more melodic with some quiet parts thrown in. Case in point: The Siberian duo Grima and their debut album Devotion to Lord. (Their Bandcamp page clarifies that "lord," in this case, is "Mother Nature and no human god," so we're not talking about any "white metal" here.)
The two tracks that Naturmacht originally previewed, "The Beginning" and the title track, really drew me in. Grima play heavily melody-driven black metal. The vocals are primarily an icy rasp, although there are deeper growls and the occasional chant-like clean mixed in. The audible bass is a nice touch and always appreciated, and the riffs are heavy on the tremolos. The title track brings in a little Alcest in its intro, but only for a moment. The two bands certainly share a strong melodic sense and an ability to capture a dream-like feel, but I wouldn't lump Grima in with any of the blackgaze bands. This is more of a hybrid of that sound and the nature worship in a lot of Cascadian black metal.
But that brings me to the other thing I enjoyed about this album. Unlike the polished studio recordings you here with a lot of blackgaze and Cascadian recordings, there's a rough-hewn quality to Grima's sound, not so much because of the production, but because of the performances. Grima isn't afraid to leave an arpeggiated riff naked with no accompaniment, like near the midpoint of "The Beginning," and it has a great "recorded live" feel to it, with an occasional string buzz left in. I often struggle with this in my own chintzy recordings--do I go for a raw, one-take recording, maximizing the emotion of a spontaneous performance, or use whatever limited abilities I have in recording to polish the sound? It sounds like Grima's gone for the former here, and that suits the heavy emotional impact of their music very well. And although that doesn't make for a revolution in the atmospheric black metal subgenre, I'd still highly recommend this for people looking for atmospheric BM with a Siberian twist.
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]