Author: Gay For Gary Oldman
Album: Nordjevel (2016)
Label: Osmose Productions
I think I must be getting soft in my old age. There was once a time when, if I was asked to demonstrate my tastes in black metal, I would first turn to Gorgoroth’s Twilight of the Idols or Marduk’s Panzer Division. Unrelenting, furious and fast paced black metal; screaming out at break-neck speeds and refusing to let up, song after song. A veritable wall of sound, collapsing on the listener.
Over time, this brand of extreme metal began to wane in my interests, and I grew to better appreciate the subtler tones of more lead guitar-oriented composition and mid pace evil. 2015 was a fantastic year for that, with Mgla, Katavasia, Havukruunu and the aforementioned Gorgoroth impressing me with creative, diverse and dynamic songwriting, covering a range of speeds, intensities and guitarwork.
Nordjevel, however, either failed to get my memo, or else burnt it and used the ashes for corpse paint. Here is a black metal band from Norway, donning traditional corpse paint aesthetics, featuring both the Norse words for ‘North’ and ‘Devil’ (in case Djevel’s album last year didn’t already beat that idea to death). So it shouldn’t surprise you that Nordjevel offer up a platter of dyed-in-the-wool latter-day second-wave worship. What should surprise you, however, is the quality of songwriting here.
As alluded to earlier, Nordjevel’s idea of black metal is to begin blast beating and tremolo strumming, and not to cease until you can fluently speak in Norwegian howls. After an album teaser released on Youtube showcasing some impressive guitar leads, it was this speed and intensity which caught me off guard with opener The Shadows of Morbid Hunger. For a moment I had thought that I had accidentally put on last year’s Marduk album, and the band certainly dip more than a simple toe into that school of the late second wave. But despite risking, or even striving for a wall of white noise, it’s the guitar riffage which grounds the music in more than just an onslaught of tremolo. There is melody here, if one can manage to hear it through the speed.
Now, I may be doing the band a disservice by implying that their record is naught but 220bpm black metal. Many of the tracks do slow down in sections, but they often do so underneath a continuous pummeling of the double bass drums. Promotional “single” Djevelen I Nord exemplifies this. If one was to focus solely on the excellent guitar work, one would selectively hear an excellent mid-pace composition a la Mgla. However, the thrash drumming kept underneath, further pushed into the forefront of attention with the absurdly quick drum-fills, leave one lasting impression: speed.
The one track which stands out as bucking this obvious and overwhelming trend is closing 10-minute track Norges Sorte Himmel, loosely translated as “Norwegian Black Heaven”. The track is simply a slower, galloping tune akin to For All Tid-era Dimmu Borgir. And that is meant as a complement, for it introduces an infectious, almost jaunty lead guitar melody in what otherwise is entirely dressed as low-fi second wave worship, and absolutely pulls it off, reaching a crescendo in what I understand is a guest guitar solo.
Elsewhere, it really is the engaging guitar work which pulls through the otherwise furiously monolithic songs, such as Denne Tidløse Krigsdom, with the lead guitar providing an anthemic, pulsating core to the song during each chorus. And it really does this successfully, creating a series of distinct and engaging tunes in what would appear, in hindsight, to be a superficially negative review. I enjoyed this record, and intend to revisit it many times over the coming months to see if the staying power that my favourite releases of 2015 featured is shared by this furious offering.
- Gary for Gary Oldman
Check them out here: https://nordjevel.bandcamp.com/releases