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Ah, here we have yet another post-Diabolical Naglfar record that features our favorite Swedes abstaining from playing with a full deck. Just like Sheol before it, Pariah features top-notch dissonant riffing with little of any measure of interest going on around it. The only shuffle of note is the departure of longtime shrieker Rydén and the interjection of former bassist Olivius to fill his choleric shoes. While Olivius is capable enough, the formula is beyond played out by this point. Can this be the same band that released the varied, spectacular Vittra? Well, to be fair it is a different lineup, but Nilsson is still here, and he more or less is Naglfar.
As such, the riffs are always a treat to listen to. Nilsson's barrage is telegraphed in a vein similar to Dissection, and to the band's credit, you know you are listening to a Naglfar tune when any one of these tracks fire up. The riffs aren't quite as overtly melodic as those of the group's aforementioned Swedish countrymen, but they have their collective metal heart in the right place and lay an enviable foundation for the rest of the band to take advantage of. This rarely happens, as these tracks simply aren't written with much attentiveness or care to detail. It almost sounds like the band wrote the majority of Pariah in a single weekend - with the only casualty being a few beers. There simply aren't enough surprise elements or deviations from the norm to keep the listener invested for any real measure of time. "A Swarm of Plagues" can be rather deceiving in this regard, as it is easily the best track here. The album exhausts it's reserves quickly though, and the band simply rehashes the same general formula seven more times, slowly losing momentum and only occasionally getting a "second wind" of sorts when the guitars finally shift out of their churning tremolos to deliver some monolithic grooves.
It's honestly a shame that modern Naglfar is almost always one sandwich short of a picnic, because if you put Nilsson's riffs alongside a different supporting cast something enthralling might come of it all. Instead we get what I like to call "riff soup," meaning that that the compositions may seem busy and multifaceted on an ephemeral level, but lack effective transitions and audibly clunk against each other like a slipping automobile transmission. Even Sheol had deviations from this stagnated regularity in "Devoured by Naglfar" and "I Am Vengeance," both of which blow anything on here out of the æther (or underworld...whatever). Other than "A Swarm of Plagues," Pariah earns a few points when it finally decides to slow the fuck down and gather atmosphere. "And the World Shall Be Your Grave" features a few great slower sections, some pleasant leadwork, and a supple melodic outro passage that earns it a passing grade on their own. "None Shall Be Spared" is also mercifully much slower on the whole, and other than meandering most of the time, features a real bone-crusher of a riff just shy of the two-minute mark.
Now is as good a time as any to mention the stellar production values. Unlike Sheol before it, Pariah features an acerbic, venomous guitar tone that the band has never been able to match, no matter what the circumstances. It strikes some sort of golden balance between both extremes and lends itself to the slower, swampy riffs that occasionally surface as well as the cyclonic tremolos that we have come to expect from Naglfar proper. It doesn't sound quite as compressive or sweeping as Inquisition or Limbonic Art, but if you were to combine Diabolical's songwriting with Pariah's production values you would finally have a relatively worthy followup to Vittra. Grahn's kit also sounds great, masking what is honestly a very pedestrian performance, and what bass?
In the end, Pariah only serves to frustrate more than anything, contributing to the growing stockpile of competently-executed melodic black metal records that are kneecapped by a preclusion to thinking outside of the genre's cramped confines. Nagfar has clearly got their modern style down, and while it is regrettably far-removed from their humble origins, it does have potential. They just can't get their shit together on Pariah. Dealer, shuffle those cards and let me draw a new hand.
Formed in Sweden in 1992, Naglfar has five full-length releases total since then. 'Pariah' is their fourth full-length. They've gone through quite a few lineup changes since their first coming together as an official band. Four members are featured on this one. Their latest release entitled 'Harvest' is the only other album that I own out of their entire discography.
Naglfar's genre falls under the category of melodic black metal. Andreas Nilsson is on lead/rhythm guitars, Marcus Norman also is on lead/rhythm guitars, Kristoffer "Wrath" Olivius plays bass/vocals and Mattias Grahn is on drums. On this release, Wrath plays bass and sings. Morgon Lie replaces Wrath on bass for their 'Harvest' album.
In terms of the sound, I'd say that the quality is only mediocre. It's difficult to hear all of the instruments in unison with one another. The rhythm guitars however are decent from what I am able to hear of them. The tempos are quite fast for the most part but there are sections where they are slower paced. All in all, the time signatures guitar wise are quite fast tremolo picking and drum beats are blasts gallore.
Guitar wise, the melodies are quite good. They have a unique sound to them from what I can amass. If they had a better production, I would probably give this album a higher rating. Wrath's vocal outputs are pretty much the same for the whole album. His voice features higher-end screaming with not much variety.
Wrath mostly sings about evil and darkness. It fits well with the music. On their limited edition digipack, there is a cover song entitled "The Calling Blaze" which is originally sung by Throne Of Ahaz. In addition, their Japanese release features a song entitled "Skulls" (overall source: http://www.metal-archives.com/release.php?id=77021).
Again, if Naglfar's sound quality was better on this album, I would give it a higher rating. I'm not saying that it's a complete waste to purchase. But as I stated before, it's difficult to hear the guitar riffs as well as the music altogether. Their latest release I think is a much better output. 'Pariah' does still have some key melodies however. The band lineup shows talent and Wrath's vocals are good.
Some tracks to hear which are my favorites include "A Swarm Of Plagues", "Revelations Carved In Flesh", "None Shall Be Spared" and "The Perpetual Horrors." The total length for the release clocks in at almost 40 minutes. You can view their web site at http://www.naglfar.net/.
I haven't heard a great deal of black metal that I can really get behind, but this album is one I would highly recommend. Let's start off with the high points of Pariah. What really catches my attention right off the bat is Kristoffer's explosive vocals. The utter sound of hatred and disgust he puts into every lyric gives these songs their almost epic feel. His vocals demand your attention! Yet, it doesn't seem like he's being fake or over the top, which is something all too common with a lot of black metal. You then immediately notice the hammering sound of the double-bass kick and the rest of the drum kit being beaten to hell, but not so much that it's just convoluted and distracting.They keep a good rhythm and pace with the rest of the band. Let's move onto the guitar work, so rhythmic and fast-paced, yet controlled. It produces such an eerie feel that you can't help but be captivated by. The melodic guitar work paints a picture of warfare and post-Armageddon doom. It almost puts you in a trance. Not extremely technical, but nothing to scoff at either. The guitar is more about the fast-paced melody that goes together perfectly with the vocals.
Now, the low points of this album. The main thing that keeps this album from being phenomenal is the repetition of EVERYTHING. The vocals don't really change up throughout the course of the album at all. This isn't that big of a deal to me, seeing as how there aren't a lot of clean vocals in black metal to begin with. The drums get very boring really quickly. They seem as if their only purpose is to carry the rest of the band. Blasting double bass kicks can only last so long. The guitar work as much as I appreciate it, starts to sound the same on every track. It seems to go in the same direction for every song and it gets very predictable. In fact, every song as a whole is constructed pretty much the same way. However, I can find enough differences in each track to keep me listening which is why I gave it a rating of 90. If you listen to a lot of melodeath, black, or technical metal. You probably won't be too impressed with this album. However, if you're looking for something a little different that can ignite the fury within you, this album will probably be for you.
Naglfar are back with their 4th album entitled “Pariah”. Naglfar has never caught my attention enough for me to count myself as their fan, but after this, who knows? This is by all means not bad, nor is it something groundbreaking… Let’s just call it “satisfactory”. You see, the first thing that strikes one upon the first listen is the simplicity this is all about. The production is pretty weak-sounding, and the music itself does very little to keep itself going. Safe it feels, but a certain degree of complexity should have been added for this to be good.
For example, they’ve clearly given their stronger tracks a lower position on the album, so basically, the farther you progress listening to the album, the worse it gets. The thing that rescues this from mediocrity is the fact that the first songs work really well. “A Swarm of Plagues” & “Spoken Words of Venom”, easily the best songs on here, features some great guitar-work and great musicianship. The first mentioned has a different kind of build-up structure than the usual ones, and the chorus is great on that one. The drummer keeps bashing the shit out of his kit, but so little of the actual beats are heard clearly, so that falls kind of flat. Same goes for the bass, you can’t really hear what’s going on there, other than it follows the guitar quite often. “The Murder Manifesto”, “Revelations Carved in Flesh” & None Shall Be Spread” are the mediocre tracks. “None Shall Be Spread” starts out with a creepy piano-melody, and proceeds with great guitar-work as well as tight drumming. But then it all spreads out, and we’ve heard it all before. Such is the case for the remaining tracks also. Particularly the closer “Carnal Scorn & Spiritual Malice” starts quite nicely, but doesn’t hold up to the end.
While I’ve nagged a lot about weak song structure and so on, it’s not all that bad. Actually, the reason why I’m giving it such a high score is that it all fits together on some levels. For instance, while several tracks may sound quite alike, it works because of the minor changes between them. The black metal sound these guys play around with may never suit my taste, but the actual writing inspires me. This is not a bad album. It’s just not very thought through. Even so, I really enjoy giving this album a listen now and then. Next time, if they start to look elsewhere for inspiration, maybe they will succeed better.