I'm at the point now where innovation or variance is probably one of the, if not the, biggest thing I look for in a piece of music. I've pretty much heard everything there is to hear with Black Metal, and I can say that innovation is not at the top of the priority list for many of the bands out there. I'm not a huge Darkthrone fan because they simply refuse to try anything new, Carpathian Forest bores me because I feel I could spit in a 5000 square foot room full of Black Metal albums and hit a similar sounding band each and every time. Countless other bands follow the same exact sound, the same exact structure. Dark Funeral, Tsjuder, Xasthur, Leviathan, Satyricon, nothing new is really brought forth, nothing jumps out and make me think "Wow, what the hell just happened?". If a band is willing to try something new and try to evolve the genre as a whole, that band will catch my attention.
So here we are with the dual keyboard onslaught of the Ukrainian Black Metal band Nokturnal Mortum
. They use the traditional Black Metal ferocity and interlock it with a more experimental approach in terms of the song structures, ambient sounds, and the extremely potent harmonics of the two keyboardists. Their second LP album Goat Horns
is certainly a giant leap forward for all of the Black Metal community, since I can't think of another album before it with the use of not one, but two
keyboardists who shoot off some incredible melodies to couple the guitars and create an atmosphere so dark and brooding you know this is indeed real Black Metal, but also highly melodic and oppressive. With 7 tracks clocking it at a respectable 52 minutes, you're in for some really epic long players, such as the insane 12 minute monster that is "Veles' Scrolls" or the pounding 10 minute title track "Goat Horns". From the opening instrumental "Black Moon Overture" to the closing notes of the final instrumental "Eternal Circle", Nokturnal Mortum
throw the entire book at you, not holding back any musical talent or any emotion whatsoever.
The guitars, while usually pushed into the background by the much more prominent keyboards, do a very satisfying job of keeping the usual Black Metal riffs flowing, being really fast and not all that melodic. They are not so swallowed that they are incoherent, but they are noticeably pushed back. Usually when this happens (such as in Oath Bound
) it really drastically takes away from the overall quality of the music, but the fact that the keyboards are played so perfectly and that the guitars are readily noticeable in every song suits me well, and I'm sure that anyone who hears this album will not complain at all. The bass on the other hand is completely lost in the ocean of instruments and sounds, and when you can hear it it really does absolutely nothing of mention or worth to the album, making it probably the weakest part of the album. Drumming is not your typical lightning fast blast beats so famed by most Black Metal, instead it takes a toned-down pace, in the middle of fast and slow, ranging occasionally to each of those extremes. The fills are noticeably impressive, being insanely intricate at some points which adds yet more depth to Nokturnal Mortum's
already impressive lineup of surprises. Of course though, the show is stolen by the more or less flawless keyboards. They are pretty much the soul of the entire album, putting extra punches of emotion and technicality into each and every song. The production puts them right up front over the guitars, and thankfully they deliver on all fronts. When they aren't being really melodic they back the pounding drums and guitar riffs, adding a third dimension to the really sinister parts of the album. Even at some points, like toward the end of "Veles' Scrolls", some really awesome classical piano is shoved at the listener, making the tone more dark and evil sounding, coupling the deep vocal effects that are growled over it.
Speaking of the vocals, Nokturnal Mortum
once again fail to disappoint Black Metal fans. They are awesomely preformed, with a really throaty screech which is actually quite unique, being both really evil sounding and brutal. They aren't afraid to throw in variety in the vocal department either, with some death metal growls at the end of "Veles' Scrolls" or even some clean vocals in the epic track "Kolyada". Being constantly fast and in-your-face, the subtle changes which are made make the listener breathe a sigh of relief and get a moment's peace to embrace the keyboards, the awesome acoustic guitar, or even the serene sound of bells and whipping wind like in the beginning of "Goat Horns".
I haven't heard anything quite as unexpected before or since, but Nokturnal Mortum
crafted a masterpiece with this album, there is simply no other way to put it. Anyone who even remotely enjoys Black Metal will embrace this with open arms. Amidst a pool of Black Metal bands which try and be like the masters of the genre, Nokturnal Mortum
go out there and try something newer, and hit a home run. Every moment of every song is unique and some moments are completely unexpected, and the so-called "Wow factor" is bursting with this album. A classic in every sense of the word, if you don't own this yet you are missing one of the best experiences in Metal.