None More Black: Mimorium, Vananidr, Nattverd, Avslut, & Halphas
A hefty lapful of black metal.
Nattverd – Styggdom
Nattverd is not a band I’m familiar with, but they do seem to have a fine taste in (cover) art, if Styggdom and last year’s Skuggen EP are any indicator. While the depictions themselves might not be out of the ordinary (well, I guess Styggdom‘s might actually be), the implementation sets them apart. The same could be applied to Nattverd’s music. At least, that’s what I think the band is aiming at; I, myself, might beg to differ. Styggdom holds within its cover black metal that wishes the ’90s in Norway never came to an end. Their variety including both flavours angry and sad-angry, with enough hooks and catchy riffs to grab attention. Unfortunately, they’re all very plain and similar, blurring together and failing to leave a lasting imprint on the membrane.
The production on Styggdom is distorted but each instrument remains clear and distinguishable, which could provide the perfect companion to the genuinely passionate individual performances, if everything on it wasn’t so goddamn boring. Not to mention that most of the songs drag on between 7 and 9 minutes, when not a single one is equipped well enough to withstand 4. Nattverd may be a passionate band, but they do not come off as an inspired one, and the material on Styggdom would be entirely too lukewarm to really be recommended for anyone, even if wasn’t forcibly extended to an hour.
1.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Avslut – Tyranni
A fairly new band to enter the stage, but a confident and clearly professional one, Avslut has drawn comparisons to the likes of Dark Funeral, but I for one, care less for them, their modern work failing to evoke the variation in simplicity that drives Tyranni. Much like Nattverd, their style is that of traditional black metal, the charm of which lies in the details. Besides the blast beat-laden melodic black metal, Avslut knows the ways of thrash metal riffs, which they carefully incorporate into the fold, and though the slowest moments do not often pass the threshold of a few seconds, the rearing of their heads every now and then does wonders for Tyranni’s sound.
Most of the charming details though, are something smaller. “Den Eviga Flammar” keeps switching between the two modes on the title track. Overtorture drummer Oscar Krumlinde accentuates the change of one tremolo riff to another with a change of cymbals while otherwise keeping the same beat and on “Underjordens Apostlar,” the blast beat is continuously interrupted to great effect.
Vocalist Baad can get monotonous, but he’s convincing enough to not want for a change of pace or a diversification of styles, as much as just some additional focus and hooks on the vocal arrangements, and whenever the pace relents, a living bassist may be found ‘neath the carcass of a rotting band. But those moments are few and far between, and when the pace is kept high, Tyranni, though mostly a pleasant ride, starts sounding stuffed after a while. Though Avslut has no trouble whatsoever holding to their own, the lack of the sharpest edge keeps them from being truly memorable, and sometimes Tyranni can get a little too professional.
3/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Mimorium – Blood of Qayin
Mimorium‘s debut passed under my radar for the longest time, only really reaching my grasp under the eve of their sophomore’s release. The lifesblood of Mimorium is its melodies, sometimes ominous and gloomy, sometimes downcast and plangent, but thoroughly powerful and memorable. They’re especially reminiscent of the Swedish style, but not without domestic comparisons either, often inhabiting the circles left empty by Behexen. But Mimorium isn’t entirely reliant on their melodic side, especially with the thrashier riffs mixing up their brew. Blood of Qayin is agreeably aggressive, which the thick, heavy production supports.
Unlike the debut, Blood of Qayin was arranged and recorded by a full band, and especially the far livelier drum work elevates it, though the vocalist’s occasional, lower pitched gutturals provide a welcome variety as well. At roughly 40 minutes, Blood of Qayin knows better than to overstay its welcome, but the experience nevertheless begins to go stale by the end. Perhaps it’s the lack of “hit” material, but Mimorium’s sophomore falls just short of the mark, a good but too hefty platter with too few flavours.
3.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Vananidr – Damnation
The most attentive and obsessive followers might remember Vananidr from last August. Back then, their freshly re-released debut managed to make a careful impression with its atmospheric flourishes, melodic outbreaks and Immortal-esque riffing, though failing to commit to any particular style left it unable to explore the full effect of any of the presented. The very same people may also remember that the sophomore released in tandem, sounded better but lacked in both gloom and aggression, suffered from bloat and monotony and still failed to commit to one approach, leaving each song to wander the same, winding trails over and over again.
Ander Eriksson began composing the first Vananidr album in 2007, and recorded it in bits between 2010 and 2017, all the while writing the sophomore. Maybe this time taking approach is the reason he’s reluctant to let time pass between releases, as roughly half a year after its predecessor’s release, Damnation has arrived at my doorstep. In the interim Vananidr has grown into a trio, and the act is now more focused than before. Damnation retains few of the issues of its predecessors; at 47 minutes it’s been stripped of much bloat and while the songs still incorporate the atmospheric, wandering sections as much as the melodic and the briskly riffing ones, it’s all much more cohesive now.
The band is at its best on the opening “Distilled”, expertly demonstrating the most melodic side of the band and the closing “Void”, with a similar approach but a more independent bass line and choosing to coil around one growing motif. The “Tides of Blood’s” emphatic draggling also works, but for the rest, the better moments are scattered between drab ideas, and the 6 to 8 minute lengths seem like too much for the majority of these ideas to withstand, leaving the gripping moments all too few. Damnation is an improvement over its direct predecessor, but Eriksson needs to let his ideas simmer, or in the event Damnation was written over a several year period as well, take the best out of his new band in practicing and arranging them.
3.25/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Halphas – The Infernal Path Into Oblivion
A German quintet with members from Cross Vault, a doom metal band whose praise I’ve sang a couple of times on these here very pages, Halphas‘ sophomore arrived right in the middle of the Christmas season, practically guaranteeing it would be missed by the majority of others than the most devoted followers. And to miss it would be a shame for any man who’s ever felt the draw of the German scene. Pregnant with riffs, unlike a salmon, The Infernal Path Into Oblivion does not wander far from the soil it was birthed, and thus the journey back is considerably easier than the finned friends’.
I’m not sure where I was going with that analogy, but it hardly matters. Halphas knows how to riff, and they do so abundantly, but there is more to their offering than overt worship of the metal pantheon’s highest god. The Infernal Path… often has an air about it, likening it to the Icelandic scene. The atmospheric undercurrent, composition length and phrasing each seek the frozen landscapes of the volcanic isle, but Halphas retains a much more direct style honoring their homeland, which may be seen as either good, or bad, depending on the listener. Whichever the case may be, it becomes a cape of distinction wrapped around the group’s collective shoulders.
With a clear production, inhospitable, inapproachable walls of noise form no trouble for anyone to approach, even though The Infernal Path… is raw enough to hold at bay the sterile, clean sounds of the computer age, and the separating mix fights back the dullness of the ears that often settles in with more stuffed cases. The acoustic “The Narrow Descent” offers a final moment of calm before calamity, as the final 8 minutes strike, but despite several longer songs Halphas never relents, never stumbles. Though in order to claim a throne from the halls of the modern greats, some trimming and some honing might indeed be called for. The inferno must behold far greater fun than our hamlet’s reverend ever let on, if indeed this path into the sweetest embrace of oblivion can be as infernal construed.
3.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell