If you scratch away at the surface of any music genre, you will always uncover hidden gems that are arguably as good as the “A-Listers”, and in some cases can even surpass them. There are many factors that play a part in why some bands break through and some don’t, but I will leave that conversation for another day. However, what I will say is that although Netherbird may be a new name to some, this is a grave injustice and over the course of their four previous albums of melodic blackened death metal they have shown that they can more than hold their own with the big names around them.

Clearly rooted in the Swedish melodic death metal scene, they have stayed true to this while pushing the boundaries, incorporating and effortlessly blending several other elements of extreme metal, most notably black and blackened death metal.

They continue this with their fifth full length ‘Into the Vast Uncharted’ which opens with ‘Saturnine Ancestry’ getting straight into the action with a howl and a rumble of thunder over incisive riffs before another howl unleashes the track proper, laying the foundation for what is to follow as harsh vocals sit atop sublime guitar melodies and galloping rhythms. What is noticeable early on is that in contrast with a lot of melodic death metal, the tracks on the album are mostly short and punchy giving them real impact. The exception to the is ‘Mercury Stars’ which clocks in at almost nine minutes allowing it to build and develop.

There is variety within the tracks on the album with some feeling a little more up tempo such as ‘Lunar Pendulum’ and ‘The Obsidian White’ while others are a little more restrained with the focus on sublime guitar melodies such as ‘Harvest the Stars’. A real change of pace comes on ‘Eventide Evangel’ which is based around an acoustic guitar melody and growled vocals for the first half giving a sombre poignancy before it reverts back to the more familiar blackened death style.

In essence, this album upholds the atmosphere of the Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal heyday while developing a contemporary feel. It is epic and majestic while also maintaining intensity and melody, all captured with a crystal clear, polished production which should see them catapulted to a larger audience.

(8/10 Andy Pountney)