Now OK, I’m not the usual go-to-guy for Black Metal bands on Ave Noctum. I think many of my fellow writers would possibly go so far as to state that I’m not really even on the list of go-to-guys-and-gals…and admittedly, they would probably be right. But before everyone (including the band themselves by now…) writes off this review completely or suspects Worwood of straying into Symphonic/Power Metal territory, I have been known to sometimes dip a cautious toe into those murky, dark turbulent waters of Extreme Metal if the band in question are incorporating something a bit…different.
Previous album “Ghostlands – Wounds From a Bleeding Earth” (released in 2017 and expertly reviewed elsewhere on Ave Noctum) was an intense, epic Black Metal journey through Nordic landscapes and ancient battlegrounds, whereas “Nattarvet” is a more introspective, thoughtful and sometimes poignant album, focusing on lives lived and lost through hardship and adversity…in an epic Nordic landscape. The folk/pagan elements that dared to bare themselves on “Ghostlands…” are celebrated and pushed forward a little more on “Nattervet”. Don’t worry, we’re not talking Korpiklaani-style frivolity here, more like varying degrees of say Moonsorrow, Windir, Falkenbach, Vintersorg and Ereb Altor. There’s still plenty of blast-beats, thunderous bass and epic guitar, crowned with harsh, enraged vocals, but this is just one of many interesting vocal styles used on “Nattarvet” – from very occasional clean, right through every type of harsh vocal you could ask for. This varied vocal approach is echoed, balanced and emphasised by that greater inclusion of melodic/folk passages which gives the band’s overall sound more depth and diversity.
Every song is it’s own Metal vehicle and winds it’s way around it’s own musical path, changing mood and intensity when it chooses – this is not traditional Black Metal, so it must be expected that this Swedish band will push genre boundaries whenever possible. For instance, ‘The Achromatic Road’ has much of the Garm-era Borknagar about it. Although it is one of the albums more mid-paced tracks it still holds it’s own – after a great main riff that drives the first part of the track, it incorporates a poignant short acoustic break (as many of it’s album-mates also do to great effect) that gives the song an enormity either side of it. The actual lead-guitar solo towards the end is pure class too. Another highlight is ‘Sunnas Hadanfard’, which kicks off in prime Black Metal territory, but steadily finds itself within another damn fine acoustic mid-section, giving way to an epic heavy passage adorned with almost-clean vocals and culminating in a great Black/Folk riff towards the end. But it must be said that every song has loads to entice a progressively orientated Extreme Metal fan in.
I suppose the only predictable thing about this album is that it just had to lead to an epic closing track and the 12-ish minutes of ‘The Isolationist’ does not disappoint! The heart-rending emotional acoustic intro yields to blast-beats fuelling the same melody line, but delivered with elevated intensity. The song twists – an extended acoustic section builds the drama steadily with the aid of more fabulous lead guitar-work, switches rhythms, switches moods, settles back into Extreme Metal, swerves again, and as the vocals bark and the lead guitar strikes a suitably memorable line the whole thing is brought to it’s natural conclusion. So yes, this is a melodic Black Metal album, with all the correct attitudes and deliveries, but it also incorporates so much more and will massively appeal to Extreme Metal fans who are up for a bit of genre-melting.
(8/10 Andy Barker)