Review Summary: An excellent but disjointed excursion into Folk/Symphonic Black Metal
A little over a year after their previous effort, To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire
, Nokturnal Mortum were once again back in the black metal spotlight with NeChrist
(which translates to heathen), an album that has garnered its fair share of both positive and negative reception since its initial release in 1999. The album is often seen as the most uneven in the Nokturnal Mortum catalog and is said by many to be an incoherent mess made worse by the band’s adoption of National Socialist views on songs like “The Call of Aryan Spirit”. Despite its detractors, the album also has its fair share of fans that cite it as being one of Nokturnal Mortum’s best releases in their entire catalog.
As stated before, the sound on NeChrist
has been described as disjointed and incoherent by many. This is somewhat true. The tone of the album changes very sporadically, not only from song to song, but inside of the songs themselves. The first song, “Black Raven”, for example, starts off with a Ukrainian folk intro before launching into a flurry of blast beats and synths reminiscent of the ones found on the bands previous effort. After about a minute and a half of this, the song goes into a folk part that comes out of nowhere and completely changes the tone before once again going into an extremely fast black metal riff. NeChrist
does stuff like this constantly. It often goes from symphonic parts, to parts with tremolo picked riffs and blast beats/double bass, to folk parts, and back at random. While this may sound like a bad thing, it actually works quite well. It makes the album not only unpredictable, but just interesting overall. NeChrist
actually has a lot of variety which was something that the previous album lacked.
As far as musicianship goes, Nokturnal Mortum never disappoint. As previously stated, the album contains a lot of fast riffs and drumming. Both of these aspects of the album are excellently preformed. Nokturnal Mortum’s drummer at the time, who goes by the pseudonym Munruthel, plays extremely fast blast beats and double bass throughout the entire album. The drums on the album are recorded quite well, so it is easy to hear almost everything he is playing at all times. Knjaz Varggoth’s vocals and guitar playing are also both excellently executed, however, the guitar tone is a bit strange. The guitar tone on NeChrist
is very bass heavy and thick. Because of this, the riffs can sometimes be hard to clearly make out in the more chaotic parts of the album, but the production on them is still quite passable for black metal and works well with the heavier sections of the album. The bass on the other hand, like with many metal albums, is completely inaudible save for the song “Death Damnation” where the band decided to make it louder than every other instrument in the mix. A strange choice, but the bass lines are interesting so it works. Like with the previous two Nokturnal Mortum albums, NeChrist
has two keyboardists performing on it, however due to a lack of focus on the symphonic aspects of the previous two albums, they are not fully utilized on the album. When they are used, their contributions to the music are solid, albeit sometimes hard to make out clearly due to the production.
Despite the random nature of the album, NeChrist
is actually quite consistent in its disjointedness. All of the songs sound similar both in production and songwriting making it hard to really talk about specific songs. One of the only songs that really changes the formula is "NeChrist: The Dance of the Swords” which is a lot slower than the rest of the album and reminds me of the polish black metal band Graveland. Other standouts include “The Child of Swamps and Full Moon” and the infamous “The Call of Aryan Spirit” which both contain excellent riffs and songwriting.
Despite its faults, NeChrist
is still a very unique album that deserves the attention of anyone who is a fan of Nokturnal Mortum or black metal in general. It’s not for everyone but if you can get past the unusual production and NS views that the band had at the time, NeChrist
is a great listen.