Seemingly out of nowhere comes one of the best black metal albums of 2017, one that is simultaneously rooted in the decades-old traditions of cold Norwegian black metal and yet so vibrant and multifaceted, and so sure-handed in its songwriting and execution, that it breathes new life into the sounds. The achievement is all the more impressive because this is a debut album.
The album is Vi Vet gud Er En Løgner (We Know God Is A Liar) by the Norwegian band Nattverd. It will be released in September by Darker Than Black Records, and we’re fortunate to host a full stream of the music in this post.
As I explained when we recently premiered the album’s opening track, “Der Tronen Blender, Vender Vi Oss Mot Mørket“, background information about Nattverd is scarce. They are a two-person band that began in 2010, consisting of guitarist/bassist Atyr and vocalist Ormr, with session drums beautifully performed by Serpentr.
That opening track is a scorcher, a torrent of hammering percussion and a surging storm of seething chords, the melody rising and falling like waves of rushing blood, the Norwegian lyrics voiced from a throat that sounds choked with bile and constricted by a noose of barbed wire. Yet while the music storms, it includes a melody that’s bleak and beautifully wintry in its cast — not so much a song of sorrow as it is an ominous paean of desolation and incipient derangement, half-despairing and half-murderous. And while the song drives hard for much of its duration, the power also ebbs and simply seethes in the shadows, even more heavily cloaked in gloom and despair.
The opening song is a sign of the dynamism and variation that will come in the rest of the album, but it’s only a sign and not the full disclosure. Taking account of all eight songs, the music is revealed as both ripping and atmospheric, orgiastic and mesmerizing, savage and somber, desolate and defiant, anguished and exultant. It stinks of sulphur and it also gleams with pastoral beauty. It can be hellishly vicious, as well as cold and cruel, but it also has the capacity to make the heart swell and at times even merits the term majestic.
And so, after the opener, the song “Nattverd” swings and stalks, its mid-paced gait accompanied by bleak riffing and a swaying melody that’s chilling, while “Du Gudfryktige Orm” moves between frenzied passages suggestive of a demonic orgy and the pacing of a stately ritualistic procession, mixing sensations of anguish and fury, desolation and desire.
The follow-on track “Stille Som Stein” is one of the album’s most dynamic compositions. It begins with an eerie and unnerving layered-guitar arpeggio and a big clanging bass line (with the bass later taking center-stage, as it will again later in the album) and becomes a blending of gibbering madness and deep melancholy. The song swarms and canters, boils and pummels, and by the end a rising and falling melody portrays a somber beauty.
But Nattverd still haven’t exhausted their ideas. “Lucifer’s Blod” is a venomous but highly infectious rocker, but with interludes that are gloomy and lumbering as well as blasting and ferocious, while “Sjelen I Brann” is built around a depressive but mesmerizing melody that becomes increasingly vibrant and panoramic, straddling a line between wistfulness and wonderment. The album’s title track is another display of contrasting sensations, providing both a thundering, defiant charge and a penetrating melody that’s deeply sorrowful.
As an album closer, “Hill Satan” pulls together many of the ingredients that have been spread across the album — it rocks hard, it seethes with cold waves of tremolo riffing, it gallops and stalks, it’s depressive and exultant.
While Nattverd’s music honors old traditions in many ways, the production gives it a relatively clear and powerful sound, more modern than archaic. While the riffs and melodies are the centerpiece of the album, the drumming is also unusually strong, deploying frequently changing patterns and progressions, avoiding a saturation of blast-beats through a mix of galloping double-bass, tumbling tom progressions, martial snare patterns, head-nodding back-beats, and much more.
As for the vocals, they’re really nasty. Frequently distorted and persistently bestial, they come across as strangled, gasping, clawing, and livid — a mix of tyrannical proclamations, mad shrieking, and wolfish howls.
You can pick out the antecedents and influences as you make your way through the album. Nattverd aren’t trying to break any molds or tack on any avant-garde flourishes in what they’re doing. They seem uninterested in modern black metal trends or the splicing of black metal with other genre styles. As I observed in writing about our earlier song premiere, they are content to follow the old paths in the glorification of the Adversary — but their strides are confident and strong.
Vi Vet gud Er En Løgner features cover art by Misanthropic-Art. For more info about the release, watch these spaces:
Darker Than Black Records: