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It is hard to believe that this is the same Naglfar that shat out the uneventful Sheol eight years later. This could easily be a lost Dissection album at times, with the band only lacking some of their fellow Swedes' epic songwriting scope along with the almighty love for the minor key. Don't get me wrong, Vittra is still nebulous and arcane melodic black metal, only this time serving as a stylistic precursor to future classics like Storm of the Light's Bane and Far Away from the Sun.
Vittra's atmosphere is quite ripe, coming to a melodic head during the mid-paced verses of "The Eclipse of Infernal Storms". The compressive, held-out swells of distorted corpulence contrast well with the imperial march of the synth-driven chord passages. In fact, these two aforementioned songwriting styles constitute the lion's share of Vittra's melodic appeal, giving the harsher soundscape more of a foothold when the lasting power of the riffs begin to wane. This is rarely a concern however, with Hansson an Nilsson both passing muster on a variety of fronts. While the atmosphere is almost universally chilling and foreboding, Naglfar often shifts into a major key to great melodic effect. The most searing individual example of this practice is the section right before and during the solo of "Enslave the Astral Fortress". There is a very subtle folk influence infused into the melodies, supplementing the bouncy appeal of a lot of the material.
For being fairly primitive melodic black metal, a lot of Vittra's then-unusual songwriting decisions can be viewed as novel in hindsight. The dense keyboard presence certainly helps convey the melodrama of the lyrics with conviction and ardor. The ethereal chords that open up "Enslave the Astral Fortress" go hand-in-hand with the more traditionally melodic verses and the emotive solo, helping merge the entire ordeal into probably the best individual track here. Funny that a song so uplifting and triumphant sounding is the most searing and memorable, but one has to consider the era of Naglfar's history Vittra was released into to fully comprehend it's contribution to the genre.
The trebly surges of distortion merge with Olivius' clanging bass timbre and the sepulchral roars, manifesting into a cohesive, determined assault on the senses that is all but expected from a Tägtgren production job. For 1995, Vittra sounds amazing, layering on the atmosphere in viscous, supple layers that has become something of a lost art in today's modern world of digital enhancement and artificial pandering. Holmgren blasts away on the kit, making a concerted effort at keeping his percussive patterns both fresh and piping. Funny that while I know Holmgren for his short stint as Skyfire's clean vocalist in their very earliest days, he was part of something much bigger years before with his performance here on Vittra.
The one area where I can go either way is regarding Rydén's tortured shrieking. As stated above, he sounds functional enough and fits the subject matter well, but there are some moments when he begins to lose the plot and overacts instead of emoting effectively. For some reason, two of the lines early in "Exalted Above Thrones" are delivered in some sort of parody of extreme vocals. It only lasts for a moment, but it sticks out like a sore thumb and damages the otherworldly appeal of an otherwise spectacular closer.
While I respect Naglfar for keeping the moribund flame alive, they probably know as well as I that they can never hope to match Vittra with any of their modern opuses. Storm of the Light's Bane gets name-dropped in conversations regarding Swedish black metal all the time, but never this. Let's change that starting today.
Naglfar are one of the most overlooked melodic black metal bands, seemingly doomed to exist eternally under the shadow cast by their countrymen Dissection and Sacramentum, and to a lesser extent Vinterland. It’s silly, and even slightly unfair that Vittra is seldom brought up in conversations pertaining to the Swedish black metal scene, even more strange considering the very high quality that is present on this release and the level of creativity demonstrated on the behalf of the band. Of course, comparisons can be drawn to Dissection and Sacramentum, yet perhaps these purely stem from an aesthetic dimension as the core of Naglfar’s music is fundamentally different and stands aloft above a sea of imitators.
Essentially mixing early In Flames instrumentation with a black metal edge, Vittra is a surprisingly unique and refreshing take on the melodic black metal style. Mainly played in the major key, the music here creates feelings of hope and triumph rather than the images of wind swept battlegrounds and frozen tundra that their countrymen envision. Vittra seems to take black metal into a brighter direction than what was thought possible at the time. Far removed from the occult worshiping bands of the early to mid-nineties, Naglfar seem intent on reenergising the scene through a complete overhaul of the genres primary aesthetic.
Instrumentally, Naglfar are far closer to the Gothenburg trio than any of the major names in the black metal scene. In Flames is a very easy comparison to make, indeed Vittra seems to exist as a black metal counterpart to The Lunar Strain. Vocally the band is competent yet monotonous. The singer has a very effective shriek, however it can delve too deep into the realms of melodrama as is the case with the ending track. The vocals remind me of Anders Friden’s performance on Skydancer. Harsh, piercing shrieks floating above raw yet melodic instrumentation.
With a heavy focus on the melodicism, Naglfar’s sole atmospheric expression falls on the shoulders of the melodies. The melodies have a very mystic and even ethereal feel to them that grabbed my attention on my initial listen and keeps me coming back for more years later. The use of keyboards is pivotal in establishing the band’s atmosphere, similar to Dimmu Borgir (who they would come to resemble more and more as time goes on, much to my dismay) the keyboards play a very important band in the album. Although they never lead the direction of the music, they’re a consistent presence throughout this albums modest running time. And although the use of keyboards can become oversaturated and corny, Naglfar has dealt with them with a level of finesse I would never have expected from such a young band at the time. Mixed with the keyboard melodies are the acoustic breaks. They’re very interesting and well written and serve as more than just connective tissue between the frenetic sections.
It’s disappointing that Storm of the Light’s Bane is brought up time and time again whilst Vittra is continuously forgotten. For such a stellar release, Vittra is unfairly overlooked and ideally should have a much stronger presence within the Swedish black metal scene. Although over time Naglfar have moved away from their original style that made Vittra and Diabolical such fantastic listening experiences, I will continue to hold Vittra in high regards, and will always believe it to be one of melodic black metal’s finest outputs.
The magic of a band's first full length release can sometimes go unnoticed at first, as was the case with Naglfar's Vittra for me, I got into them shortly after they released Harvest which was also one of the first black metal albums I ever bought, shortly thereafter I ended up buying up every album I could find by them. When I finally got around to Vittra I was expecting something more in line with Sheol or Diabolical but this album stands out to me among the rest of Naglfar's discography for one main reason: those majestic, melodic riffs that punctuate every track on this masterpiece. At the time of my first listen, I don't think I was thoroughly prepared for what I was hearing, and somehow it didn't resonate with me that this may be one of the best Swedish black metal debut albums ever released. In hindsight, nothing else in their discography comes close to this epic album.
Vittra doesn't fool around with any spooky little intro tracks that mar many otherwise great albums, As Twilight Gave birth to the Night dives head first into some of those majestic and powerful riffs that make this album so awesome, I'd even go so far as to say some of the passages that kick in around the 2:40 mark have a slight NWOBHM feel to them (especially in the next track, Enslave the Astral Forest) which needless to say, isn't heard too often even in the most "melodic" of black metal acts, and further cementing their classic heavy metal influences is a rather excellent cover of Iron Maiden's misanthropic classic, The Evil that Men do. One last strong point of Vittra is the piercing, wails that Kristoffer occasionally bursts out into in several tracks, chief among them for me being in Eclipse of Infernal Storms.
If there's one thing I could consider a negative point on this otherwise stellar release is probably the fact that there's not much deviation from the over-the-top melodic parts, if you're one of those black metal recluses who can't listen to an album that doesn't sound like it was recorded inside a tin can, this may not be such a great album for you since Vittra has pretty clear sound quality even for a black metal band that isn't "black metal enough" to be straight up black metal if that makes any sense. To me, Swedish black metal has (for the most part) always been a more digestible form of their Norwegian counterparts, and Vittra is a prime example of a black metal album that doesn't cater to the extreme kvlt black metalist.
Basically, I feel like Vittra is one of those albums that is an excellent black metal album for casual black metal listeners or for those "testing the waters" of the genre. Die hard black metalists may understandably get a bad taste in their mouth from all the melodies and that crystal clear production, but overall this album has some incredible musicianship all around and deserves a listen from even the most well-rounded metal enthusiast. I'd leave a few stand out tracks but if you like one song on Vittra, you'll enjoy all of them. There really isn't a single song on this album that's gotten stale or boring to me. In short, this album is up there with Dissection's The Somberlain.
Ah, Naglfar... A Swedish black metal band both praised by some, and hated by others. They play an ultra-melodic style of black metal, placing them in the category of "melodic black metal." This shit sounds heavily influenced by the also Swedish band Dissection, with it's not necessarily raw, but still somewhat dirty production. It could basically be compared to Dimmu Borgir's remastered version of their "For All Tid" with a slightly more polished production. Some people will compare this band to Cradle of Filth, but honestly, that is an insult to this band. Yes, an insult. Cradle of Filth may be older and more well-known than Naglfar, but they certainly cannot match the majestic beauty of this black metal classic!
The atmosphere here is tremendous. Now, that does not mean the guitars are fuzzy. This is not the same atmosphere of Burzum's "Filosofem." No, no; this is completely different. This atmosphere is all in the melodies. The keyboards and acoustic guitars do their justice in creating one of the best melodic atmospheres your ears could ever be fornicated by. This IS eargasmic music. The first track, entitled "As The Twilight Gave Birth To The Night," begins with a synth intro, sounding very orchestral and symphonic, but not cheesy like the modern Dimmu Borgir shit. This is dark, eerie, and just oh so majestic. The tremolo riffs on "Through The Midnight Spheres" are one of the crowned jewels on this album. They are catchy (holy fuck, did someone just say a black metal song sounds "catchy?!?!?!?!?!") Yes, indeed, a lot of the riffing on this album is quite catchy, but not too catchy. It is the perfect balance of catchy an aggressive. The title track "Vittra" begins with an amazing clean guitar riff, and a scream. This song is just shy of 3 minutes, and it is completely instrumental besides a few spoken word verses and some screams. A synth choir is mixed with the majestic clean guitars, and then, after the break, the electrifying riffs come in with double bass drums... The riffs are purely amazing. The following track "Sunless Dawn" contains some of the album's best riffage, and some of my favourite drum lines. This album closes with the track "Exalted Above Thrones," which is somewhat faster paced in the intro, and the drums are basically similar to what we heard on "Through The Midnight Spheres." The riff that starts at around 0:44 is just breathtaking. This is a perfectly dark song, one of the darker sounding songs on the album, actually. Great way to finish off a classic black metal album, such as this!
Now, who would I recommend this to? Fans of: Dissection, early Dimmu Borgir, fans of the first two Cradle of Filth albums, Vinterland, Catamenia, Covenant, Cryptic Wintermoon, Emperor... Any of the more melodic, majestic, and hell I will even say epic, heroic, huge-sounding black metal bands.
Vittra is the debut release from Sweden's Naglfar. Released on Wrong Again Records (now known as Regain), in May 1995, this bland album added to the already growing dung pile that was desecrating the grave of the Second Wave. While so many classic albums were spawned from 1992-94, they were increasingly difficult to find due to the large number of worthless records that were being pumped out by every third-rate band that wanted to cash in on what had rapidly become the next big trend in metal.
First off, this album is usually classified as black metal, though with the word 'melodic' in tacked onto the beginning of the label. These are the same blind fools that called Dissection melodic death metal, which shows just how backward people can be, sometimes. Vittra has far more in common with the early output from In Flames, as opposed to the likes of Nifelheim, Throne of Ahaz, or old Marduk. It can be stated that this L.P. represents many of the worst qualities that were afflicting the underground, around this time. For one, too much emphasis was being placed on trying to sound pretty, rather than creating an atmosphere of darkness or evil. The utilization of synth, clean vocals and acoustic guitars helps to raise the level of cheesiness. This, coupled with the awful songwriting, make it painfully clear that this belongs in the same category as most of the other wannabe Power Metal nonsense, with harsh vocals, that was being vomited forth from the Gothenburg scene. Everything regarding the construction of the songs goes against what black metal was, at the time. One glaring issue that should be noted is that the guitar riffs are not the central focus of the compositions. Instead, it seems as if much of the material is moved forward by the percussion and vocals, an error that was already common in death metal, by this period. As well, there is far too much double-bass, which only serves to detract more from the mediocre guitar melodies. Even the very best ideas presented here are boring and come across as very halfhearted. Even as far as melodic black metal goes, Naglfar did a poor job. Bands like Sacramentum and Vinterland took many of these same elements and achieved much more with them, as their efforts were far more consistent and possessed more creativity and artistic vision.
The production is just as bad as the actual songwriting, itself. However, due to the nature of the music, it is not surprising that they went for such an over-produced approach. Everything here is far too clean and sterile. There is no room for atmosphere, despite all of the theatrics, based on such an ultra-modern sound. This really sounds similar to Lunar Strain, from In Flames, to a great extent. The clarity of the drumming is a particularly annoying flaw, as this makes much more obvious the fact that the percussion is in a leading role, rather than a supportive one. The bass is too audible, which is a common error with albums recorded at Studio Abyss. As for the guitar tone, it is just as lifeless as the rest, not possessing even the slightest bit of a raw edge; something that Metal should always have. Albums like this are exactly why Peter Tägtgren should never have been allowed to operate his own studio.
It is safe to say that Vittra is the aural equivalent of massaging your genitals with a cheese grater. This is horrible stuff that never should have been recorded, let alone released to the public. That is not to say that Naglfar was particularly detrimental to the underground, as they were but one of many that jumped on the bandwagon and contributed to further polluting the scene, but they were absolutely worthless and their debut album is a good example of this. Waste neither your time nor your money on this.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
This is Naglfar's debut, a melodic black metal cd in the vein of Dissection with a more epic approach, yet a less brutal assault to the ear than the above mentioned, but even more enjoyable in the whole aspect of what melodic black metal stands
for(at least for this particular individual). It's a shame actually, that this perfect release got overlooked in the past and how good it was for it in the time being.
The guitar's are excellent at bringing catchy melodies and epic solo's and the short acoustic bits fit very nice here. The drumming is great though you can barely hear it at moments, yet it fits perfectly in this riff-oriented album. The bass is a bit difficult to hear at times because is so well mixed with the guitars, yet is good for what it is. The keys give it the curious, yet sweet touch to the songs(specially the intro to As The Twilight Gives Birth To The Night). My favorite part has to be the vocals of Jens Ryden(who is no longer in the band). They fit and sound amazing, fooling your ears into believing the guitars and every instrument behind the music are there to just to complement them.
The lyrics are intriguing, deep and will keep you wondering how can someone write something so powerful and meaningful in a non-explicit way to catch the listener's attention. The whole music itself is beautiful, I could listen to Vittra all day without having to skip any track from it(which I almost feel bad about it because I didn't really enjoy their latest efforts as much as I did with this one).
In conclusion, if you're looking for a melodic black metal masterpiece and an album to add to that flawless list of your favorites then look no further, because Naglfar have done it in one little underrated gem that goes by the name of Vittra.
Few bands these days can have a small compound of Black Metal poetry, and even fewer where symphonic melodies are a key to the backdrop of each song, without being called sellouts of this overall “underground” subgenre. Naglfar may now be signed to the largest and most well-known metal-providing record label in history, Century Media, but in no way do they not deserve the attention of an overall defunct Black Metal audience. Adding to this, not one soul would have the right to call this band generic; up until I heard this release fully, I assumed they were.
The album starts off a delicate intro to “As the Twilight Gave Birth to the Night”, which soon accompanies complex drumming patterns, and at 3:25, an acoustic riff lasting approximately ten seconds makes you close your eyes and envision a majestic landscape right before your eyes. Not far from then, Naglfar break new ground with symphonic leads inspired by amazing lead guitar work and low-key bass lines. The dark surroundings visualized throughout this song only get better when the second track, “Enslaved the Astral Fortress”, and the third track “Through the Midnight Spheres” are unleashed upon the careful listener. The riffing in these songs formulates the mixture of the menace and power of Enslaved with the melody of Kalmah. The atmosphere much resembles a Viking Metal band, mirroring the clear drum sound and the deep, hollow bass.
Vittra takes a slight turn towards keyboard-driven tunes once “The Eclipse of Infernal Storms” starts. Tracks five and six, titled “Emerging from Her Weepings” and “Failing Wings”, are appropriately titled to lyrically break through an attentive listener. The lyrics, especially the lines of “The Eclipse of Infernal Storms” carefully open the listener’s eyes to a farther land, reading “The great beyond lies open in front of me”. “Emerging From Her Weepings”, the fifth track as well as the longest on the whole album, also provides carefully selected Death Metal grunts, courtesy of Peter Tagtgren. Similarly to how the fourth track offers plenty of synth, “Failing Wings” offers lots of medieval melody accompanied by relentlessly up-beat drumming.
The partially-instrumental song “Vittra” on this song is easily admired by both the talent and diversity of Naglfar. Sure the song is only about three minutes in length, but all it builds up is complex steps and paths. It begins with an odd clean electric guitar followed by tom fills and a high-pitched scream. This evolves to double-kick drumming and one of the most memorable guitar riffs in the history of Black Metal. Clean vocals overpower this song, but the lines are few, and not long after, beautiful key melodies arise abolishing the song. Whichever way you look at the last two tracks, “Sunless Dawn” and “Exalted Above Thrones”, they are a perfect ending to an atmospheric Naglfar album. The riffs are kept to a minimal progression, and the drums resemble ones of simpler Black Metal patterns. At times sounding like Limbonic Art and others Satyricon, the band not only gives away imagery of an eternal forest which stands above all humanity, but also metaphors of the imaginary line between life and death. After all, the album ends in its utmost extreme with the words, “I left my shell and this mortal world to receive life everlasting…”
Naglfar may have conquered new heights with this masterpiece that borders Melodic Black Metal, but is still on the throne. The only downsides I would see with this release are Jen Ryden’s lack of diversified vocals and at times, the continuous use of the double-kick. Many bands prefer shorter songs, but others prefer longer. I personally think Naglfar could possibly go with one or the other, as most of their songs either end too fast or seem to take forever. Nonetheless, this album gets an 8/10 from me most definitely.
Some say this album is a classic, though I haven't heard of it for over a year of almost maniacal listening to black metal. It is said that Swedish BM is just playing as fast as you can and screaming pathetic quasi-blasphemous quasi-satanic lyrics. Sadly, it is almost right opinion. Almost, because there are still few bands there like Naglfar...
Naglfar's debut should remain known as a chest full of melodies and beauty. I had not heard something like this before... Melodic black metal is rather rare, and this album is the main and probably the best point of taht genre. And what can we find in "Vittra"?
We can find melodies, but rather not easy to remember. We can find a guitar solo, we can find death metal riffs, we can find here almost everything, but in small amounts. We can find great growls, ranging from low, death metal growls, through great BM growls, screams like in marduk's "dark endless", to dani filth's high growls. Sometimes bassist Kristoffer Olivius adds his backing vocals, sometimes Jens vocals are mixed and so on, making the album concentrated on two vocals.
"Vittra"'s sound is constructed on two melodic guitars, with keyboards in many places and acoustics. Drums are a bit too loud (or the guitars too silent), but it doesn't make listening to "Vittra" less pleasent.
The songs... After the first listening you will probably not remember any song, but that's the good side - with every listening you explore the magic world of "Vittra" once again from the beginning. Choosing the best one is a difficult task and I will leave it to the listener.
All in all, "Vittra" is too good to ommit it when you explore black metal world. However, it can be also a good point, that after years of listening to black metal you will find this treasure, noticed only by few people.