netherbirdA bit of a rare treat, this one, all be told. I am an owner of the first of their four albums, “The Ghost Collector”, having bought it, bizarrely enough, in a second hand store in rural Norfolk (go figure). I’d never seen too much more of their stuff about, either online or offline, and it wasn’t really the place I’d expected to come across Swedish Black/Death metal, cosmopolitan though King’s Lynn clearly is. Perhaps the best known musician on this release is Frederik Widigs, he of Marduk infamy, though he here is much less…erm…blasty than he is with those be-face-painted reprobates.

“The Grander Voyage” is really artfully done black death metal very much in the vein of the mid to late nineties, and none the worse for that either. It’s almost impossible, of course, to talk about this kind of music without invoking the ghost of the much-missed Dissection, and aptly enough, that was the first comparison that my mind made as soon as the second track, “Hinterlands” sprang forth from my headphones into my ears. Perhaps it was the rasping, almost whispered vocals that accompany the minor-key guitar harmonies that played off each other in that unmistakeable way? In any event, the post-seven minute track seemed to be over in a flash, and carried with it a completely melancholic feeling; this continues throughout the rest of the record.

Following another short acoustic linking piece, Netherbird get back into their stride with “Windwards”, the track from the album for which the band have produced an official. Again, it has all the hallmarks of this particular kind of music; the atmosphere, the mid-section waltzing tempo, but now added with some extras. An almost-chanted addition to the vocals on the chorus, and the stellar drumming of Widigs propel this away from the Dissection copyists, and give them a unique character of their own. “Pillars of the Sky” has more death metal bombast, with a heavier overall feel, which although it uses the black metal fast guitar riffing, is fairly rooted in that stomping tempo that traditional death metal uses to such good effect. “Silvan Shrine” is a more reflective cut, with a wistful feel that really takes off when the soaring soloing cuts through the gloom. “Emerald Crossroads”, the album closer, starts with a gentle acoustic introduction, before morphing into a latter-period Bathory-esque romp down to the shores, with the closing moments of the album appearing to be the lapping of waves unto the shore.

This is a ferocious, yet delicate album, with plenty of shades and shadows weaved by the well-written songs. In terms of the production, this is completely clear, with the icy tone of the axes not at all diminishing from the power of the riffs, and though this is a dish which is served dryly, it still retains plenty of muscle and menace. I enjoyed it massively, and hope that it helps to propel the band further into the limelight, where other less talented but perhaps more PR savvy bands currently occupy the limelight for this kind of extremity that sits in the hinterlands between black and death metal. Excellent stuff, all be told, and well worth an investment of your time. With this release, Netherbird deserve to be among the premier league of intelligent, atmospheric extreme music.

(8.5/10 Chris Davison)