Review Summary: Ukranian Folk Black Metal
This is one of those albums that I came across upon pure luck. I was looking around my local music store to see if there were any good used CD's. I like to buy my music used because the price is usually cut in half and the music is still there. In this case it was 7 dollars. Quite affordable for finding such a rare album in a F.Y.E. I recall reading through lists and reviews that this band was quality black metal and have been meaning to check this out. I've heard that this was a demo released on disk but nonetheless is a solid showing from the beginning of a young black metal band.
"Nokturnal Mortum' are a black metal hailing out of the Ukraine with a birth date around the early nineties. After a couple of name changes, "Nokturnal Mortum released their first batch of music in the name of " Lunar Poetry". A hard hitting album from start to finish, filled with the fury and ominous keyboard work closely associated with the realms of Burzum and other early black metal bands. As a whole, their sound doesn't exactly sound much different than the rest of the pack but make up for it with tight execution and experimentation to keep you hooked. Along with the typical raw black metal structure of fast buzzing riffs, highly strained and distraught vocals and thudding drums, 'Nokturnal Mortum' incorporate folk and pagan elements into their sound. Creating something between the lines of raw Black Metal while showing a heavy emphasis on melody. This Ukrainian act keeps it varied and interesting the whole way through. For the most part, Nokturnal succeed with the instrumentation, only a few times does something tend to dominate over the other. This is the first release after all, there are bound to be a few flaws.
These days, many of these so called Black Metal bands tend to have the epic orchestral work completely over shadow the raw nature that this genre has become known for. Originally, keyboards in black metal were used to a minimum to create atmosphere but many bands today either abuse it or just don't know how to structure them into their sound without causing some problems. At times on this album, the keyboard work tends to drown out some of the raw sound but for the majority of the duration, it is executed well when learning to adapt and merge properly with the sound instead of engulfing it. "Tears Of Paganism' opens the disk with a haunting, Burzum inspired key run, starting the album with a dark, ominous sound. “Lunar Poetry” shows how the band can balance with the keys properly into the black metal sound. The guitar tones on the album are pretty typical of the Black Metal genre, primarily fast, crushing, and heavily distorted when at times, can switch to melodic. There is a fair number of solos here courtesy of Wortherax, which is always appreciated in this style of music. It’s great to hear when a black metal guitarist can provide some melody as opposed to depending on electronic elements to complete that task. Wortherax as a guitarist fit’s the bill, providing a ton of catchy riff patterns and high tempo rhythms for the drummer to catch up with. If there is a bassist, I can’t hear him, which is too be expected and not something to hold against the album.
The vocal work on the album is great. Knjaz Varggoth as a black metal vocalist doesn’t sound much different than your run of the mill vocalist. He favors the higher register shrieks for a good portion of the album and displays the writhing emotion you would expect to feel from a Black Metal vocalist. A positive is that he varies his vocal patterns between the well executed highs to the lows and minimally used clean vocals. Unfortunately, trying to comprehend the lyrics will be a bit hard. His voice, clean or harsh can be quite unintelligible for quite some time so you might not understand what he is saying. The album didn’t carry any lyrics so I’m not sure with what to make of them although I have heard that they deal with National Socialist views. Back to the keyboard work. On this album their was one player at the time, I’m sure many of us know that later on they added a second keyboardist to the group, bringing out more of the folk influence than shown on this album. Much of the time, they are used in prominence and occasionally too much, drowning out the rest of the sound at parts. This is rare however, as most of the time they are used tastefully to provide atmosphere. The drum work is pretty good. A lot of cool patterns here and there but for the most part, standard Black Metal fare. Matching the tempos, Munruthel plays a lot of fills and double bass, based on the speed. Aside from the pounding drums, ghastly vocals, furious guitars, and the spell binding key board runs, is a band that knows how to make each song unique and stand out from the rest. The lack of filler is a big plus to me. The album demonstrates these abilities greatly, from the primarily clean vocal driven track “Sorrows To The Moon” to the harder “Ancient Nation”.
I never used to understand why low production was important to Black Metal, back when I wasn’t so familiar with the style. As I’ve started to listen to more bands in this genre, I became engrossed and find the atmosphere that it provides to be real. This album is no different. Production is low and at times can have one instrument louder than the other but for the most part the production is solid and lends it‘s atmospheric touch to the music. I’m not sure how well known this band is or how much attention has been given to this CD but this is a great starting point for an up and coming metal band. This retains the grit of Black Metal with the melodies of folk with great balance. Other than a few nicks, this is a pretty solid Black Metal album. Catchy, accessible and still heavy, this album should attract most metallers if they haven’t heard this already. For fans of Black Metal and Folk or just metal in general if you don't mind raw production and a heavy dose of melody. A solid showing for what’s to come in the future. I give this a solid 4.25. Despite a few quirks, this is all in all an excellent showing.