Grimlord - V-Column 2.5/5
2. Mass delusions & hysterias
4. Posthumous coronation
5. King is dead
6. Dead bodies don’t swim
7. Faithful avenger till the remainder
8. March again
10. Widerstand 17
My sense has always been that there is a sharp schism in the Polish metal scene. On the one hand, there are a number of talented melodic/power/traditional metal acts (Crystal Viper, Access Denied, Pathfinder, Monstrum, etc.). On the other, there is a sprawling, expansive extreme metal movement in Poland (Behemoth being probably the best-known example), with an emphasis on the brutal, the harsh, and the angry. Grimlord are an interesting case because they defy classification in one category or the other, but instead have a foot squarely in each camp. Oh, it wasn’t always this way. The band’s ‘Blood runneth over’ debut CD from 2008 was firmly in the traditional metal vein, sort of in the style of early Running Wild, classic Iron Maiden, and so on, with modern nods here and there. Not so on ‘V–Column’, which mixes those traditional metal influences with prominent black metal undercurrents, occasional industrial vibes, and a flair for wacky out-of-left-field arrangements, breaks and interludes.
There are enough intriguing musical ideas on display on ‘V–Column’ that with the proper focus, cohesiveness and crystallization in the writing process, Grimlord really could have fashioned an entertaining, unique CD. And while I do not have access to the lyrics, from the artwork, song titles, and snippets of verbiage I can make out, there appears to be an interesting concept afoot about war, soldiers and power. The fundamental problem is that, unfortunately, ‘V–Column’ comes across as something of a disjointed, scattershot mess. Bashing through 10 tracks in a scant 30 minutes, Grimlord are all over the place, careening from grim (!!!) frozen-tundra black-metal riffage to heroic Running Wild guitar-hero parts to overbearing/annoying keyboard sections (including a keyboard solo over blastbeats in the first song!) to calm acoustic guitar jams (see “Prolegomena”, a folky unplugged instrumental) to occasional female spoken-word voiceovers to a jarring, maddening mid-song fadeout on “King is dead”. None of the ideas seem properly fleshed out, and few seem to fit together. Every time you hear a cool part, it vanishes, never to be seen or heard again in the undifferentiated, chaotic maelstrom. A similar ADD/schizophrenia overtakes the vocals, with Barth La Picard running the gamut from Quorthon-styled shrieks to Cronos-type bellows to Mille Petrozza-esque shouts to a curious heavily-accented but oddly charming clean voice that comes and goes without warning.
The lazy temptation as a reviewer would be to say that ‘V–Column’ sucks and be done with it. I’ve seen some reviews of this CD that do just that. But I don’t think such out-of-hand dismissal is fair or appropriate here. Grimlord has potential, as there are moments (unfortunately all too fleeting) where your ears will perk up with interest at a tasty riff or fetching melody (how about the instrumental part in “King is dead” or the crushing parts of “Posthumous coronation”, which Grimlord ruins with a church bell, a clean guitar interlude and other awkward embellishments). And they are to be applauded not only for trying to find their own niche within the crowded metal genre, but also for a DIY persistence to their craft. They’re still mailing out promos to websites like this one, even though they know we panned their debut CD and never reviewed their 2nd CD 'Doce vita sath-anas' (trust me, it was for the best). That tells me that La Picard and his crew believe in themselves and won’t take no for an answer. I respect that never-say-die, underdog attitude. With a good, critical producer and a more disciplined, focused approach to songwriting, Grimlord are capable of turning heads in a positive way someday.
Alas, that day is not today. It’s a viciously competitive, saturated marketplace out there. Bands around the world are raising the bar, upping their game and creating stellar works of inspired heavy metal music. In this climate, it’s an extraordinarily tough sell to recommend a markedly flawed CD like ‘V-Column’ to the vast majority of our readers. The only exception is that those of you who are (a) extremely patient, (b) hankering for something off the beaten path, and (c) keen on experimentation and genre collisions, may find ‘V–Column’ to be worthwhile. For the rest of you, file away “Grimlord” as a name to watch, if they can ever pull it together and release the killer CD I believe they have within them.
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