“At long last, one of the most anticipated black metal albums of the past decade arrives” decrees the PR blurb that accompanied this album for Greek band Nocternity. Hmmm that’s for me to be the judge of I thought but high hyperbole really for a band that I have to admit I have never even heard of. Nocternity do have quite a bit of history and in more ways than one about them though. Firstly musically things stem back to1997 with a couple of previous albums, various splits and EP’s having been released. Secondly, well they look like they have history at their heart as you can tell by the album title and cover art. It is very much authentic too as apparently members of the band own an actual armoury. Speaking of members it looks like Nocternity is helmed principally by Khal Drogo who has composed this album along with German vocalist Whyryd previously of Lunar Aurora and drummer Vagelis Voyiantzis of none other than Dead Congregation. This all set me up to expect something really quite special and with a fast strumming Greek blackened fervour that might even be comparable to the really good recent album by Macabre Omen.
That’s not what I got at all though as the first couple of tracks set up the template to a sound that is much more reminiscent of the early Scandinavian scene with a plodding repetitive rhythm very much at their centre. Vocals are narrated at the beginning and left to sinister lurking background rasps in the main. Bass tones are nicely defined and there is a fair bit of atmosphere about things. The one thought that keeps cropping up though is “so far so Burzum.” This really offers nothing, new, fresh and on the whole exciting and although I have spent plenty of time listening to the album it just fails to get me enthusiastic and certainly does not live up to the huge PR write up it has gained. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing that those of us who love black metal won’t like but its own clarion call has kind of stabbed itself in the foot with a very sharp pointy sword. The title track for example being such a plodder it almost sends you to sleep although the intricate guitar work meanders along well and draws you in if you don’t nod off. The only real injection of speed and cut and thrust comes with the third number ‘Titans’ and it feels well needed but still things are all about repetition with vocals left buried in the mix making me think that what could be an air of intrigue behind them is partly lost. I guess pretty much everything here has as the press release also acknowledges been stripped right down to its component layers. As things settle back into a slow gravid tomb like mass with the haunting atmospherics of ‘River Of Woe’ the sense of lethargy becomes all too apparent again here and things don’t pick up again over the rest of the 47 minute album.
I wanted to enjoy Nocternity a lot more, there is a sense of drama and atmosphere about it and it has the feel that it has slithered out from bygone times but on the whole more variety was needed here and there is too much of a dull plod about it.
(6/10 Pete Woods)