On July 22, Grot’s debut album Hymns of the Woodland appeared on Bandcamp like a secret portal into a different world. Gently but immediately, the first track “Moonlit Pathway,” introduces you to this land where melancholy and triumph have intertwined to create life. A ferocious and imposing kind of life, as you learn by “Bearing Eternal Significance,” the second track. This same spirit of upbeat black metal reigns throughout the album until “Sparkle,” the final hymn, which returns to the clean guitar of the intro, for one last beautiful moment within this other land.
Perhaps what lends Hymns of the Woodland this feeling of secrecy is understanding that it was created by a sole musician, Houston, with drums being handled by their ‘good friend.’ So the album feels like some kind of best kept secret.
Recently, through e-mail, guitarist/bassist/vocalist Houston told Demo:listen, “I recorded guitars and bass in my bedroom, and I drove to a forest preserve and recorded vocals in my car. The atmosphere was great for the whole nature theme of the album so it worked out perfectly haha. I didn’t even know how to even attempt to do black metal vocals until it was the last thing I had to record, so while recording I finally learned how to do vocals. The drummer did all the mixing and made it sound much better than I had it.”
The musician behind Grot continues, “I wanted to have a black metal band for a while but I never really knew anyone who wanted to make the same kind of music I was looking to make. I finally decided to just do my own music. My good friend is on drums for this project (since I can’t play drums at all), he is extremely talented and I can’t thank him enough for all the help.”
As for the name, Grot, they tell us, “If I can remember correctly, when I was 16 I had a friend from the Netherlands and I asked him what would be a cool band name. He said grot would be cool because it means cave in Dutch. There were also many other suggestions too, but they didn’t catch my attention. So I just stuck with Grot.”
Across the intro, four tracks and outro of Hymns of the Woodland, what’s most remarkable about the album, besides the performances from the two young musicians, has to be its dynamic compositions that remain true to both the sorrowful but vicious mood and long-standing black metal tenets alike. During its best moments, Hymns of the Woodland borders on blackgaze and at times post-punk without ever lowering its obsidian edge. Up until “Sparkle,” that is, which is somehow still totally black metal in both its bravery and its utter lack of concern for expectations. “I started writing the songs my senior year of highschool, some months before everything with Covid started,” Grot tell us. “I didn’t intend for it to be anything too serious or important, I was just writing whatever came to me at the time. The first song on Youtube was just for fun because I was stuck at home and didn’t know what else to do, but the positive feedback encouraged me to record more throughout the next year after that.”
As for “Sparkle,” Grot admits, “I like writing whatever sounds pretty to me, and it seemed like the best ending for the album. I’m not very concerned with an ‘evil’ image at all, or any sort of image for that matter, I just want to make music I like.”
Various forms of the physical album have come and gone quicker than most could keep up with. Soon there will be a vinyl repress on Californian label Night of the Palemoon. Grot says, “So far there have been a few CDs, tapes, T-shirts, and then coming soon is the vinyl! I am really excited about that. Initially I didn’t even plan for any physical releases, but I’m glad it’s happening.”
Looking ahead, Grot says, “I’ve just moved to colorado for university so lately it’s just a lot of studying and work, but I’ve been trying my best to keep writing more music. Hopefully a full length album will happen next year sometime.”