Review Summary: Two keyboards, intricate and epic compositions and all around good music make Goat Horns an essential listen.Nokturnal Mortum
really suprises me. It's not the fact they have two keyboardists, their NS ideals or the silly purple cover. Nokturnal Mortum surprises me because they've found a balance between innovation and black metal clichés. And they do all of this without seeming like a total novelty.
If you hadn't guessed by the mention of dual keyboard action, Nokturnal Mortum plays the often scrutinized brand of Symphonic Black Metal, but Dimmu Borgir
this is not. Their unique approach is more than a novelty; one keyboardist typically lays the more sustained parts, giving the album an atmospheric feel, while atop the atmosphere sits the flashier keyboard work, which relies on symphonic leads. The dynamic use of keyboards adds a layer of depth and a sense of intricacy, as well as a nice thin layer of cheese.
After a Summoning
-like overture, Kuyaviya
introduces the listener instantly to what NM will be providing for the rest of the album. A surprisingly non-descript guitar raises a common debate in the black metal world: production. The production on Goat Horns
is not really that bad, it's more the levels of the instruments that cause problems. While you can hear everything, the keyboards and drums are a little overpowering, though for some that's not necessarily a bad thing. The oddly quiet guitars are buried in the mix, and sonically find themselves somewhere between crunchy and thin, which to me is perfection, and unlike the more or less awful bass work, provide interesting riffs and progressions, often carried by the flashier of the two keyboardists. The drums are typically mid-paced, but shine with striking and intricate fills, though sound wise it does sound a little like they're programmed, but I assure you, it's Munruthel playing everything you hear. Levelling issues aside, the album is strong production wise, finding a balance between clear and raw.
Epic is the only way to describe Goat Horns
; excluding the intro and outro, every song on the album falls somewhere between 7-12 minutes. The band has received some flack for being loosely affiliated with the National Socialist Black Metal scene, though unlike many bands with similar ties NM never seem to use it as their main attraction, at least not on this album. In fact, if I hadn't mentioned their NSBM ties, one could easily listen to this album without realizing they're existence. In short, Goat Horns
is an album as powerful as it is epic, as violent as it is melodic, and it contains each of the former in massive quantities. Nokturnal Mortum delivers a healthy blend of folk (Kolyada
), symphonics (Black Moon Overture
and Eternal Circle
), raspy vocals and outstanding instrumentation (other than the atrocious bass work) that's neither overtly flashy or pathetically primitive. And with a healthy dose of second-wave inspired black metal to boot, the contrast of beauty and ferocity is in full effect on this album. From the unexpected clean vocals on Kolyada
to the complex pizzicato lead on Veles' Scrolls
, Goat Horns
brings interesting twists to an otherwise standardized genre. A must own for fans of Black Metal, Folk Metal and the like.