Review Summary: Nokturnal Mortum deliver high quality symphonic black metal yet again
Living up to a classic debut is not an easy thing for a band to do, especially when said debut is Goat Horns
by Nokturnal Mortum, a legendary symphonic black metal album that is widely considered to be one of the best in the entire subgenre. Despite this pressure, Nokturnal Mortum ended up releasing their second full-length album To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire
in under a year after the recording of Goat Horns
and decided to go in a different direction rather than attempting to build off of said debut. To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire
is a far more intense affair than Goat Horns
and is comparable musically to the album the band would later follow it up with, NeChrist
, due to the inclusion of lightning fast drumming and riffage that was far more relentless than any of the material in the band’s back catalog.
As as the album begins, samples of swords clashing and men yelling immediately play for a few seconds before “Bestial Summoning” hits the listener with rapid fire blast beats and far darker synths than the band had ever used before this point. Unlike the riffs on Goat Horns
, a lot riffs on To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire
are not very melodic and are more rooted in traditional black metal. This song showcases this shift in songwriting right off the bat. As the song continues Knjaz Varggoth’s aggressive vocals come into the song as the lightning fast double bass and blast drumming continues for a whole six minutes without ever letting up. As the title track of the album comes on, the blast beats continue immediately, giving the listener no time to rest. Some of the riffs on this song are so intense that they wouldn't sound out of place on a death metal album. It is not until the third song, “On the Moonlight Path”, where the album’s formula really changes. This happens when the song transitions into one of the folk sections that the band has become known for. Immediately after this, there is some dark, yet melodic black metal riffing that is absolutely superb. Both of these sections perfectly showcase the band’s diverse songwriting capability. Throughout the album’s near 50 minute run time, the band continues to play in a similar style to this where the more intense riffing often goes on for a while before being broken by more melodic sections, some of which even implement spoken word and singing which was something that the band’s previous efforts also experimented with.
As one could probably guess by now, the musicianship on To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire
is excellent across the board. At the time it was recorded, Nokturnal Mortum was made up of six members, and most famously, two keyboardists, who went by the pseudonyms Saturious and Sataroth which was not something that was very common at the time. Just like on Goat Horns
both keyboardists are fully utilized the entire album, as they play excellent symphonic parts throughout its entire duration over the guitar riffs adding to the albums unique atmosphere. Like on all of Nokturnal Mortum’s releases up until Weltanschauung
, the drumming on To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire
is handled by drum god, Munruthel, who plays extremely fast blast beats and double bass the entire album. Knjaz Varggoth, as with all Nokturnal Mortum releases, provides superb vocals and riffing along with guitarist, Karpath, who would leave the band shortly after the release of the album. As with many black metal albums, the bass on To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire
, preformed by Xaarquath, is almost completely inaudible. Production wise To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire
sounds very good for a black metal release. The album has a raw sound, but all of the instruments excluding the bass are recorded very well and can be heard clearly on the entire album.
Despite the shift in style, Nokturnal Mortum once again deliver an excellent symphonic black metal album that is sadly overlooked by many in favor of borderline masterpiece albums such as The Voice of Steel
and Lunar Poetry
. If you're a fan of black metal, or more specifically bands such as Emperor and Limbonic Art, you owe it to yourself to give this album a shot.