Review Summary: A long march uphill.
There are some records that have all the earmarks of a great album but just don’t make the wholesome intended impact on the listener. In Nattarvet
’s case it’s all a matter of doing too many things right without expanding on the greatness that should come easily off the back of a formidable debut. Instead, Wormwood’s sophomore falls short of any worthwhile achievement, making the listener work harder for a rather average sonic viewpoint. Despite the constant to consistent similarities to Wormwood’s debut, Ghostlands: Wounds from a Bleeding Earth
shows these Swedish black metal contemporaries moving into a more focused and mature style of black metal. The tracks are longer and less (when compared to the debut) but it’s because of this that Nattarvet
becomes less interesting, less atmospheric and the bewilderingly safe affair that combines somewhat traditionally based Scandanavian black metal with that of a melody based doom affair. Wormwood may be exploring a may sombre soundscape but Nattarvet
could do with wintery riffs and blistering, fiery progressions.
It’s a shame that Wormwood has managed to hit such a middle ground with their 2019 full-length. I don’t want to dissuade the casual listener, and Nattarvet
isn’t a bad listen… it just plainly sits in the middle ground, decadent in design and secure in its execution. Take the album’s opening track for example; “Av lie o börda” brings melody into a tumult of black metal aesthetics into a winding, yet amicable track. It’s this opening piece that sets the tone (largely) for the rest of the record. It’s typical, expected and yet completely unsurprising within its ability to awe. It just doesn’t lift the song (and by extension, the album) where it needs to go. “Av lie o börda” and its following song, “I bottenlös ävja” are potential crescendos just waiting for their chance to transcend stereotypes, prevented by a tempo that marches and plods before succumbing to overbearing melody lines.
It’s not until, “Arctic Light” and the album’s latter half that the listener can start to embrace the higher level of quality that Wormwood has the potential to offer. The tracks themselves appeal better to the black metal furor that’s expected from a band with Swedish ties, but still lack the body and punch that would see this album in the same light as the genre’s heavyweight staples. Jarring riffs lift up writhing melody lines, and couple them with an utterly pissed off snarl, but neither does it conform completely to the blackened realms from which these tracks are obviously born. Subtle chanting floats through “Tvehunger”, and ‘cleaner’ thoughts permeate throughout from violins and other nuanced folk sounds, but for all the dynamic shifts on offer Wormwood fails to live up to simple expectations of quality black metal. It simply doesn’t achieve on a simplistic formula of black metal stereotypes, melancholy and clear production values, leaving instead an underwhelming feeling on a bed of good intentions.
By the time “The Isolationist” meets the listener, Nattarvet
feels drawn out and unfortunately long. Overall, Wormwood’s 2019 could do with some polite trimming, or at the very least, a more energetic (and occasionally frenetic) efforts in the songwriting department. It’s unmistakably solid, safe and fits the bill for a casual foray into the realms of melodious black metal - but that’s unfortunately where the buck stops. Nattarvet
for the most part, does feel like a long trek up difficult mountain terrain. The view from the top however, isn’t as good as you would hope.