Cross-genre pollination is nothing new, but this release takes things to an entirely new level.
“The Immortal,” the debut full-length from Norway's GROMTH, can be most easily described as Symphonic Metal, though that tag is a bit problematic for a couple of reasons. It is misleading in that the better-known artists incorporating heavy Symphonic elements into their music utilize a more sweeping, regal style of orchestration that is more rooted in the Classical and early Romantic periods and that is more structured around the string section. GROMTH, on the other hand, incorporate a more bombastic style that to my admittedly untrained ears sounds more derived from the later Romantic and early Modern periods in music. Much more than the strings, the brass gets the bulk of the focus in the arrangements here, creating a sound that is mighty and brutish. Opening track “Rise Destroyer” kicks off the album projecting strength and majesty, with a heavy brass background providing power to an already commanding main riff. This powerful, brassy backbone is present throughout, with prominence in both the melodies and harmonies alternating between it and the guitars on tracks like “Remember”, “Killing”, “Enemy,” and “Philosopher.”
The Symphonic Metal tag is not only potentially misleading, but also insufficient and incomplete, failing to convey the complex yet seamless amalgamation of elements from Black, Death, Power, and Heavy Metal that are present in the composition. Bringing so many influences together without creating a jumbled mess is a challenge, yet GROMTH pull it off well here. The music occupies a middle ground between the extremity of BAL-SAGOTH and the melodic forcefulness of EX DEO, with hints of EMPEROR appearing on occasion. In its totality, the sound conveys strength and force of will, suggesting immovability rather than brutality.
If there is any criticism here, it is that the melodies shift with too great a frequency, particularly within the songs themselves. The consequence is that the listener never has enough time to latch on before each of the songs moves into new directions. GROMTH compensate a bit for this by introducing a motif into “Philosopher” and “Explosive Power,” revisiting the strongest melody on the album. Given that so many of the melodies are good, one wishes that the band would have explored some of them a bit further.
This is a remarkable debut from an band that demonstrates a good command of composition and complex arrangement. GROMTH are a band to keep an eye on.
(Online February 28, 2012)