I spend a lot of time lately going down the rabbit hole that is the underground UKBM scene via a combination of odd leads, distros and the tangle that is Bandcamp. It’s a weird and scary place at times but there are some real rough gems and stunning diamonds so I try to take everything as it comes. Probably why I grabbed this off the review lists.

With a luridly coloured cover that looks like something that a child would paint at infants school and social services would come calling soon after it certainly strikes a pose. The opening notes of ‘Hymns Of The Dead tell me this is the kind of recording that makes Ildjarn sound like Dimmu Borgir. But I’ve heard and liked worse. A bit muffled on the vocals and with a lead break that sounds like it’s in the wrong genre it nevertheless has a cool riff. Then it ends like there was a sudden power cut. So we go on.

Things get a bit more chaotic on ‘Lurking Skeletal Remains’. We get piano, which is rather cool and nicely thought out, but the mix (I’m being generous) goes to Hell. The vocals suddenly become the loudest thing here, which at least allows you to hear how varied they are, but the riff which is actually rather good gets buried. Then the bass elbows its way to the front and the song just ends.

The title track next has so many ideas going on here with keyboards, fleeting atmosphere, cold riffs and the weirdly almost NWOBHM lead break. ‘Decompositional Stench’ manages atmosphere mostly through the vocals but again the weird lead break snaps it in two. Shame as the low fi, monomaniacal riff and vocals works very well even with no production.

Ok, a breath. This is the third album by this one man band (the guy himself being Nattskog) but in all honesty it is more of a demo. The mix appears to be non-existent and the recording basic. The lead breaks are all a bit odd and every song simply ends suddenly on a half note. Keyboards are variable to put it nicely. But some of the riffs are superb, the vocals distinctive and varied, and the drumming is more than serviceable. I mean the intro on ‘Revealing The Plague’ makes me think the guy is a fan of Dis Pater and his work and it plunges on in a similar vein for its three minute length. It shows real touch in the quiet passages, a genuine feeling for this kind of style and is the best track of the dozen on show. ‘Mother Earth’s Final Violation’ is similar in style and works well again until the lead break.

Ideas. Nattskog clearly has a lot of ideas and I would say the majority are good ones. There is also talent here, make no mistake, and passion. However crude recording with zero mix and throwing too many ideas into three minutes hamper things. Too many of the lead breaks sound like they should be in a different song when just a slight shift in the riff, or a rise of keyboards from the background to the fore would work so much better but that would need mixing.

I’m not generally one for dishing out advice as I am a listener not a musician and anyone who can play a tune is better than me. But here I can almost feel the talent straining to contain ideas bubbling up within a coherent structure. I just think they should strip things back to the riffs, the keyboards and the quiet interludes. Ditch the leads for a while at least. Get some experience in mixing. Bug the shit out of other guys in the scene on recording tech maybe. I dunno. Leads and mix definitely though.

For me this very much at the demo stage due to mostly mix and a few missteps. But there is more than enough here to convince me they could produce a fine album. Apologies for the score but keep doing it, please.

(4/10 Gizmo)