Germany’s Nargaroth should need no introduction to any black metal fan as the band headed up by Ash whose creative genius has given the black metal community some truly spectacular releases since the bands inception in the mid-1990s. It is some eight years since the last full length, “Jahreszeiten” was released and since that time Ash spent a few years with a self-imposed nomadic existence that he explains within the albums notes. During that time his notion of incorporating a Flamenco like guitar element into his song writing manifests here with spellbinding results, as I see you scratching your head wondering how the hell does that work, and believe me it does, and beautifully so. Much of the song writing for this album took place on shores from afar and whilst the album is two years overdue, according to Ash, the wait has been spectacularly worth it. Ash may be the total creative force of Nargaroth but with him is Bernth (guitar, bass, samples) his studying of Jazz guitar at an academy in Vienna has enabled that vision to be fully realised into one colossally satisfying album. Filling out the ranks is Krimh on drums and Renata V who adds various vocalisations to the album too.

Opening the album, “Dawn of Epiphany”, has a female spoken piece that is sombre and sets the scene for 65 plus minutes of sonic brilliance through ten compositions. As an acoustic guitar filters in the tone is mellow, possessing an inherent sadness as a Flamenco melody joins right before the song bursts into obsidian life. This is an ambitious album, effusing a progressive poise that the Flamenco guitar melody that so wondrously adorns the fabric of the song. Ash’s vocals sound tormented, piercingly morose but snarled beast like as the songs main riff impales you immediately. The album isn’t purely about the Flamenco guitar work, as “Whither Goest thou” continues the bleak foray into melancholy blackness with a sublime guitar riff backed by choral vocals creating a cinematic approach that is breath-taking.

Black metal this may be overall but the assortment of sonic hues allow a greying of the fringes as “Conjunction Underneath The Alpha” adopts a full black metal structure. Reining the pace in works well to emphasise the vocals which are harsh, venom like affronts that add scornful misery to the songs deportment as the song shifts focus for a pristine symphonic like arrangement that is wondrous utilising a variety of vocal styles that add considerable depth to the songs, as threads of despondency are sewn into the track perfectly. The drama that has been recorded within these songs is effortless, as acoustic passages are used superbly on “…As Orphans Drifting In A Desert” before the detonation of fury with symphonic backing and the flamenco melodies interlaced with the outright savagery. If you’re thinking that the album has calmed the ferocity with my superlatives then think again, as songs like “The Agony Of A Dying Phoenix” and “Epicedium To A Broken Dream” are intense tracks that meld sublime mournful guitar melodies with unmistakable virulence via ever shifting vocal tirades and blasted sections.

Strangely and surprisingly “Love Is A Dog From Hell” is extremely upbeat with a modern era Satyricon style that is bouncy and even rock based as the same can be said of “Tfxo” a couple of songs later on the album. Given the background to this album there has never been a more appropriately titled album as the title track begins with a simple stick tap on the drum with a bereft guitar melody that is absorbed when the snarling throat dissolving vocals ensue. The sudden surges in speed are perfectly situated as the album initially careers along headlong into a miasmic oblivion only for it to abruptly change slowing down leaving the vocals to drain their scorn on the listener like auditory toxin. The tempo and style shifts are awesome as the title track delves into thunder and rain sounds with a poignant acoustic guitar piece and gentle drum fill. The result is outstanding as a clean vocal approach is heard that has a pagan like quality and for me the style could have been used more as they are saturated in drama. Closing this magnificent opus is “My Eternal Grief, Anguish Neverending” as a howl of wind and distant choral vocal is heard that is ghostly. The riff suddenly jumps in with a dolorous hook that is intrinsically despairing and linked to the phantom like clean vocals that sough with the songs main melody. The song shifts guises continually as the straight up blackness yields for an ambient flavour momentarily before the song and album releases a final and stunning clean vocal line with symphonic backing that eventually dissipate as the sounds of sea and wind filter in towards the finale.

There will be few, if any, black metal albums that will be as comprehensive and accomplished as “Era of Threnody”. The ten songs on this opus are nothing short of spectacular, songs with incredible passion, purposeful vitriol and sublime progressivity.

(10/10 Martin Harris)