Review Summary: An 'almost', Naðra's debut full-length is still a highly worthwhile black metal release from Europe's volcanic nation.
Much has been made of Iceland's black metal output in recent years. Some of the most convincingly apocalyptic atmospheres and original song ideas have been forged by bands such as Svartidauði, Misþyrming and Wormlvst and this does mean, in a way, that bands from the isolated volcanic island are locked in a sort of competition. Now, obviously this isn't a formal or conscious arrangement, and I doubt that any of the artists would believe otherwise, but in order to stand out in one of the most interesting scenes around a band has to have a certain level of individuality - and perhaps paradoxically, coming from a nation praised for its innovation this is easier said than done. Naðra's first full-length offering Allir vegir til glötunar
is still not quite perfect, yet a promising symbol of what may be to come in the future.
If nothing else, Naðra are immediate. Opening with hoarse screams, a ripping guitar solo and a thundering blast beat, Allir vegir til glötunar
takes the route one approach all throughout first track 'Fjallið' - and it pays off. By the time the feedback peals out signalling its end, 4 minutes of manic, enjoyable aggression have already passed, and could feasibly have formed the perfect signal of intent for the remainder of the album. Second track 'Sál' delves into colder territories, and the 14 minute 'Fálið' takes a doomier, more vulnerable road still (at least initially) before exploding into a flurry of sorrowful yet cataclysmic battery. The unwillingness to dwell on a single idea is apparent, and while there is some revisited material by the end there are also a huge amount of interesting passages, right through to the tapping that dominates the final half of the closer.
Impressively given the variety, there are very few elements that don't stand up on their own. The synths at the start and finish of 'Sár' feel somewhat extraneous, arguably breaking the otherwise gripping atmosphere that they spent so long manufacturing during 'Falið', but overall the construction of the riffs and the consistency of the vocals goes towards the creation of 5 fantastic songs. Yet, one gets the impression that Naðra are having an identity crisis of sorts. Dotted throughout there are many variants of the black metal sphere on show; the melancholy of DSBM, the coldness of the second wave, the winding dissonance of more 'typical' Icelandic BM and even traces of folk/medieval. While this undoubtedly adds some colour to proceedings, there's the niggling feeling that some of these influences don't quite fit
. When finished, it's not quite clear what Naðra's intention was, and while by no means bad, deciding what to take from the album is a perplexing experience.
However, even when taking the above into account, Allir vegir til glötunar
is still an extremely solid black metal release. While perhaps not as nightmarish as many of their compatriots, it's obvious that Naðra are trying to construct a sound which is totally theirs - an emotionally tinged yet furious rampage that basks in well thought-out transitions. While they may not be entirely there yet, it's a marked improvement from their 2014 EP, and it's plain to see that with a bit more confidence in who they
are, their next could be exceptional.