Grim Sköll's debut album is a bit of an oddball to categorize. It's like pagan black metal with epic ambient passage tracks, but it's entirely done with synths. Every second track (four in total) is a "real" track, more close to black metal -expression with track lenghts from five to almost nine minutes. The rest of the tracks (also four, plus the Burzum cover) are "mitro" passage tracks, with song done entirely without the metal parts, with lenghts from two to four minutes. Their style could be described as epic synth ambient.
The metal songs consist of different synth-sounds, one of which resembles an electronic guitar to bring some metal-feel into the music, and one resembles a bass guitar (which is pretty back in the mix), while the others sound even more clearly like regular synths. On top of the overlapping synth-melodies there's programmed drums, and some really hoarse growling vocals. The vocals fit in otherwise, but they're a bit too high in the mix, covering too much of the synths. The vocals also stand out really much due to the music itself being very soft. Another problem with these metal-tracks is that the guitars only resemble the real deal, which of course eats a lot of their power and feel; the guitar sound is also pretty back in the mix most of the time, which doesn't help the situation at all. Otherwise the songs are good, the compositions have a lot of feeling in them and the melodies are really atmospheric and interesting. The songs also progress in a really natural way, and actually sound like pagan BM composition-wise.
The epic, ambient, and melodic passage-tracks are really beautiful and have a lot of feeling in them. They really succeed in painting an image of epic landscapes and mythic happenings into the listener's mind, and using the (rather cliche, I admit) nature samples on occasion was a good choice. It's quite surprising what one can create from such simple synth-sounds.
The Burzum-cover fits in by style, but it's ten minutes of lenght and the amount of repetition don't make it very interesting to listen to. It also adds too much lenght to the album and gives the listening experience a pretty much lame ending, because it's soundscape is thinner and the track is less epic in comparison to the artist's own tracks.
Overall the record's atmosphere is pleasingly ethereal in the passage tracks and the "real" songs really sound like pagan black metal, and the compositions don't become dull at any point. There are a few sounds that don't fit in as well as the others do, but it's nothing major. The biggest problem are the metal parts because they just don't have the real metal-feel sound-wise, and the fact that the synth soundscapes are a bit thin at times, at least in the metal songs; this is partially due to the vocals eating up too much space.
Visually the release is pretty dull. It's based on some beautiful, peaceful landscapes that fit in the album's theme, but the colourscape is very one-dimensional. Truly fitting, but nothing more.
The artist could search for new ways to enchance the atmosphere, to make it more addicting and more of a whole. As of now the record is enjoyable, but nothing too memorable as the atmosphere feels pretty safely built; it is as the artist wouldn't have dared to show what he really has to offer. The metal-songs would need a more solid structure, as now the soundscape is just too thin at times to be memorable. Also, the guitar-parts need to grow a pair.