1996 was a vintage year for black metal releases. Heaven Shall Burn.., Antichrist, Stormblast, Filosofem, Nemesis Divina, Aspera Hiems Symfonia. I could go on just as easily as I could fill in the band names to go with these classics but you know them well anyway or you probably wouldn’t be reading this. One that you will have almost certainly have missed though is Örth’s Nocturno Inferno as the album got passed on to “just a bunch of people.” The Norwegian band was helmed by V-Rex, who in turn was joined by Ares from Gorgoroth, Aeternus and Immortal and Grim from Gorgoroth, Immortal and Borknagar. As you are no doubt aware Grim killed himself in 1999 leaving the band to split up and this release to be pretty much lost in the dust of time. The story does not completely end here as Örth saw a rebirth under the new name Arvas who V-Rex has led through 4 studio albums the latest Black Path came out only just last month. Funnily enough just a couple of days before writing this I had also noticed Arvas are playing small venue The Black Heart in London on the 27th May and added them to the gig guide. I may well have missed their latest album but here I can at least dip back just over two decades and hear exactly where everything started.
We are eased in with the first part of a three part instrumental number ‘Hymn Des Mortes Pt 1’ before first track proper ‘The Silence Of The Guide’ sees things open up. It takes a while to get used to the two decade old Grieghallen recording as unlike many of the previously mentioned albums this has not been given a major label spit and polish up. There’s a bit of an Emperor like wrath about it before it goes hammer and tongs in a fashion unsurprisingly not a million miles from Gorgoroth. Vocals are sharp and spiky slightly on the higher end of things and suitably thorny to match the jagged guitar barbs. It definitely sounds like it has come from the era and is an authentic exercise in 2nd wave violence but with the next number flowing straight in one does get settled into a bit of a plodding section rather than all out extremity as they somewhat rest on their laurels. With it there’s a sense of medievalism and grandeur with ‘Bonded’ and the bass tones come through well as the band settle into a slow groove.
The middle section of the album really sees things unleashed and the band go like the clappers with ‘The Worshipper’ which finally hits like a blizzard with forceful yapping vocals and a bruising bounce about it. Head-banging is now in and the rabid surge that cleaves away part way through really hits the mark and ‘MoonStorm’ does just as described and provides even more intensity in salute of the night-sky. After a second acoustic interlude ‘Path Of Sorrow’ surprises with some real deathly low growls, a complete contrast in style to what has come before, guitar playing seems to have loosened too and you could easily be forgiven for thinking you are listening to another band until it finally unleashes some scathing blackness. It’s rather odd actually. At over 8 minutes I found the concluding hymn to the dead a bit of a chore with its repetitive lone riff and some backing chants and it kind of fails to allow me to get interest back for the last number which also strikes as nothing particularly special when a complete barnstormer is really necessary.
So more of a curio than a classic, worthy of checking out for a trip back to times before the light but not exactly essential. No doubt Arvas have substantially built upon this to get to where they are now.
(6.5/10 Pete Woods)