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Nazgul’s mission is a bit beyond their manpower. With only two members, the band goes to the extreme when it comes to Tolkien-influenced music. Orchestral in its arrangement and written in Latin, “De Expugnatione Elfmuth” tries to be the ultimate opus, the end all of fantasy-driven black metal, but the album, in staking an original claim, struggles to find a balance between fairy-tale-like enchantment and warlike aggression. As much as the album pushes the boundary, “De Expugnatione Elfmuth” perhaps pushes it too far and comes out sounding like the soundtrack to a black metal Renaissance fair.
But just how far are Nazgul going? In regards to the black metal aspects of the album, there really isn’t too much that goes against the grain. In fact, some of the features that distinguish it from ordinary releases are downright irritating. The vocals are borderline comical, to say the least. While not caustic or fore-fronted in the mix, the high-pitched howls clash with the fantasy theme. Imagine a less throaty and grating version of the vocals in Burzum or Forgotten Woods, and you might have the idea. Occasionally, they vary as lower pitched growls that sound like a stomach grumbling or are spoken cleanly. The clean style, while only appearing rarely, is very tastefully done and adds a grander feel to the music. Still, the “woo-woo-wooing” of the vocalist hardly ever lets up when Nazgul shift gears into black metal mode, as though to mask the overbearing drum machine and the underwhelming tremolo patterns of the guitars.
The shifting of gears is an appropriate analogy because “De Expugnatione Elfmuth” feels like two styles—black metal and a sort of keyboard-laden folk—being smashed together. Nearly every track, save the shorter filler ones, oscillates abruptly between the two. “Solvitur Ad Elfmuth,” for instance, is nearly nine minutes in length and should have been the epic highlight of the album. Instead, the combination of styles comes across as a shallow blend that does not give justice to Nazgul’s talent for composition. When they’re doing black metal, it’s full speed ahead, and when they’re doing what one might call atmospheric fantasy, it’s full cheese ahead. If you were to take a black metal song and interject an orchestra of keyboard sounds—harpsichords, flutes, trumpets, the whole nine yards—in between runs of blastbeats, you would get something close to “De Expugnatione Elfmuth.”
The keyboard, when it sticks to the typical sounds one would expect to find in any symphonic black metal release, is the album’s strongest point. Not too domineering, the keyboard occupies a space behind the guitars and gives an ethereal flavor to what otherwise would be run-of-the-mill tremolo. Likewise, the organ that resounds over a spoken word passage in “Hult-Garth” effectively establishes the album as a larger-than-life story and sets the stage for the epic.
However, Nazgul’s ambition will not let them stick to a normal symphonic formula. The immense arsenal of orchestral sounds, while appropriate for the mode of fantasy, just sounds cheap. If you’ve ever seen a low budget fantasy movie from the 1980’s, then you probably know what they sound like. When there’s a thunderous organ playing and suddenly the sound of a faux-trumpet or faux-flute comes into the mix, the illusion disappears. At that moment, you’re not journeying through the landscape of a magical realm. You’re just running around your backyard dressed as an elf.
Though these criticisms may seem gratuitous, “De Expugnatione Elfmuth” is really not a bad album. I am not a fan of anything symphonic, and lovers of, say, Summoning will greatly enjoy this album. In all truth, Nazgul are an absolutely ambitious act with conviction that far surpasses most half-assed attempts at Tolkien-inspired fantasy. To have written all the lyrics in Latin and to have composed a mature and fairly unified release, they must live and breathe fantasy, or they might very well be orcs themselves. That’s it, then: “De Expugnatione Elfmuth” was made by orcs for orcs but excludes most of the sugary sweetness you might expect from fantasy.
To be completely honest, I rejected this piece of art at first. It requires huge amount of concentration and even tolerance. But just at first. Of course, it was extremely difficult to stay concentrated on the overall impression with that kind of growling following you through the listening. However, after a third time listening, I was beginning to notice the whole concept. Obviously, as someone said, Nazgul without Zakrathor's singing would not be Nazgul, but it's more to it than that. The whole idea of making atmosphere full of hopelessness, chaos and despair would not be possible. Zakrathor's singing contributes to that atmosphere as much as any of the countless instrumental orchestrations through the album.
As for music, it is perfectly balanced mixture of beautiful, catchy, folk/classic, baroque melodies and cruel, open agressiveness and hostility that adorns this particular genre. In certain moments, somewhat unexpected, but well-timed choir chanting will appear and thus, though in complete contrast with unarticulated leading vocal, further invoke the dark, demonic emotions that pervade and colors this, i must say, masterpiece of metal art. Nobility and serenity that can be found in Nazgul music and lyrics are in such contrast with omnipresent hate and brutality that it will most certainly render you speechless. Technical and graceful instrumental orchestrations, combined with unchained, bloodthirsty black metal riffs are mother and father to a cretaure we came to know as Nazgul. And it's a good child, too. As it was said before, inconsistent and unsteady tempo of the music demands that the listener give away all his mind and heart in order to be able to keep up with the story behind the music, and so fully experience the genius that inspires this innovative creation.
Although sometimes it does not seems so, but relatively large number of short, interlude tracks is actually a very positive thing in this kind of conceptual works. It does the great job of connecting seemingly scattered fragments into a powerfull and well-crafted wholeness that will not leave you indifferent.
Concerning theme, I must say that in these, post-Hollywood LotR trilogy times, it takes a certain amount of courage and of course, originality to make the album about Tolkien's work that actually counts. It's not an easy job, considering the fact that almost every fifth band on metal scene has, at one point, mentioned term Middle-earth, orcs, elves, hobbits etc. In light of that, Nazgul is to to be congratulated. Not only for their originality, but also for their remarkable musical capabilities and imagination that allows them to create something like "De Expugnatione Elfmuth". Although battle-like tone prevails in this album, I think it should be mentioned that at some points throughout the listening, one might find himself thinking that he's listening not a Tolkien, battle-themed band, but a gothic/ baroque soundtrack from, let's say, "Interview with a Vampire". Not that it matters, but it can help you conceive the type of music you can hear on this CD.
Overall conclusion, almost perfect fantasy themed debut album. Technical, imaginative, original. Very worth of your time and money. If you listen it repeatedly, you will discover that every listening reveals a new, hidden secret that you was not aware of earlier. It does sound poetic, but it is true. One listening is simply not enough to discover everything this album has to offer.
This is some of the tamest black metal I’ve ever heard – even more than “unblack” metal bands. If there’s one thing that you’ll notice right away, then I’ll bet that it’s the incredibly overdone symphonic aspect. I mean, wow, they threw everything they had at this. Between the conventional metal instruments (guitars, bass, drums), it’s standard, fast-paced black metal with a frantic vocalist – he sounds like he’s getting castrated more than screaming. The vocals are very high and exhaled more than mutilated and tortured shrieks. Somteimes he’ll hit us up with some demonic growls or deep (but quiet (as in buried in the production)) clean vocals, but they’re hardly effective.
Much of these songs focus on a build-up, much in the same way that a typical orchestration would climax and stretch out the suspense of the moment. For that reason, the more dominant half of the music features keys, strings, and all sorts of funky instruments that will remind you of Lord Of The Rings. I know there’s a host of things that all these folk instruments, strings, keys and such will remind us of individually, but for me personally it’s LOTR… damn hobbits jumping up and down anyway the point is that the album is a very uplifting and positive listening experience. Black metal is a very dark genre, but this music hardly makes me feel less happy. In fact, there are moments that bring back the best memories from my childhood. The third track, “Elficidium,” brings me right back to Donkey Kong 64 with its pompousness and over-the-top music.
I swear these guys wrote a black metal album accessible even for kids. This will hook in power metal fans, symphonic fans, black metal fans, and even the kids if you haven any. Its not incredibly riff strong, but it’s enough to keep the songs very frantic and bashful (and metal enough to keep it on the archives). Most of the time its tremolo while the symphonic end handles their overdone parts, but the arrangements really keep the whole show (a complete pandemonium) alive and entertaining.
I don’t find them to be very focused, with many occasions making me feel too lost to keep up or even interested in finding out what the hell is going on. I’m not too sure whether the drumming is a machine or an actual person behind it, but it hardly has a lasting role in the music. The whole show is stolen by the keys, the guitars wish they were running the show, the vocals are all over the place, and the drums are just there drumming away. They don’t sound bad at all, even though the double bass sounds incredibly mechanical. Blast beats and fast-paced charges are pretty much the deal for the cake, so for black metal their not out of this world.
It’s a sloppy album that turns out to be a mixed bag in the end. I’ve had this album for a couple years now, but it’s barely had any impact on me (nothing significant). It’s just a mess that’s so unappealing on one hand, but a fun black metal record on the other. Weird as hell and truly an experimental piece that I’m happy enough to discard; one man’s garbage is another man’s hidden treasure, as they say.
As a longtime Summoning fan, I approached this band with a bit of skepticism. From what I could gather, Nazgul invokes a musical portrayal of epic tales from Tolkien's middle earth through a union of black metal and orchestral instrumention. Why, I could only wonder, would they choose the same unconventional blend of music styles and thematic premise as a well-established band?
It turns out that beyond the apparent similarities, there are some significant differences between the two. Where Summoning seem to have best captured the grandest, most majestic imagery from Tolkien's world, Nazgul are at their best depicting the violent and terrible. The dark emotion derives from blistering tempos and unsteady song structures.
The lyrics are in Latin, which is of no real consequence to the listener, as it turns out that enunciation isn't exactly one of this vocalist's strengths. On the other hand, the vocalist positively excels at bellowing lines with a gripping sense of urgency, which really heightens the tension in the songs' faster sections.
Every song follows a disorderly path, alternating between uptempo metal sections dominated by drums, synthesizer driven melodies, and indistinct tremolo picked guitar fuzz; and slow sections featuring multilayered arrangements of various traditional instruments, sometimes accompanied by spoken lyrics. The spoken vocals, with an affected deep tone, and perhaps a bit overused, are one of the album's weaker points.
The synthesizer melodies are very well crafted, catchy at times, and always varied enough to hold the listener's interest. The abrupt alternation between fast and slow sections can be quite challenging to follow. The track "In Summis Montibus" is a fine example of captivating melodies woven through a complex song structure. The short instrumental track "Caelum Obscuratur" is a stirring march, using incremental addition of layers of instruments over a basic melody to mount greater and greater tension, that must finally erupt into the chaos of the following track.
In spite of my initial hesitancy, Nazgul have won me over. No mere clones, they have composed artistic renditions of stories from Tolken's world with a style of their own.
Nazgul is probably the most original band I've come across in some time. They combine fast-paced thrashy black metal with fantastic keyboard folk melodies. When you hear that you must think "just another blackened folk metal band." But you're wrong. Nazgul isn't like other folk metal, Nazgul has Zakrathor.
Zakrathor is one of the greatest musicians I've heard in a great while. His keyboard skills are unspeakably good, and his vocals... well... You'll either hate or love his vocals. I'm one of the people who love them. His enraged owl-like WHOOOO's, at least for me, add so much to this album. If this band had any other vocalist it just wouldn't be the same, it wouldn't be Nazgul. Anyway, he has a knack for coming up with fantastic folk keyboard melodies, as shown by the 6 instrumental tracks featured on this album. All of them are good by the way. Each track will make you feel like you are in the middle of a battle between hordes of orcs and legions of humans, and the orcs win. This feeling is achieved with every second of this album, whether it's the blast beats accompanied by tremelo picked guitar or the epic keyboard riffs. Thornset isn't the most amazing guitar player you'll ever hear, but they keyboard is the dominant instrument anyway.
All of the lyrics are in Latin, and while that adds to the feel of the music, makes it so Zakrathor is even more incomprehensible than before. Luckily, in the booklet that comes with the CD, there are English translations for each song that has lyrics. Each track is a hymne to the battle between orcs and humans, and in the last track "Bellum," the human resistance falls. Zakrathor also drew a map of "Elfmuth" which is included on the case of the album. It's very cheesy - the art itself is good, but it's just kind of cheesy.
Although a two man band, they achieved very good audio quality with this release, which is surprising enough for an underground black metal band... let alone a two man band. If you're able to get your hands on this album you should consider yourself lucky. I had to buy mine off of eBay and cost me upwards of 20 dollars as the CD was located in another country. It was worth it though, as it quickly became one of my top 5 favorie albums of all time. If you're a fan of any type of black metal you should like this album as it contains all the elements of black metal and more.
Ok. I gave it 97, but don't think I am overrating it or being stupid. But when there is nothing wrong with the music, and when it is exacly the way you like it, you can't say that it's not good.
This album will really take you away and when you find yourself again you will say: "whaaaat was thaaaaaat?" because it is really what this album makes to you. Everyone that I showed nazgul to said that. They get completly surprised and amazed by the vocals, the keyboards, everything!
The songs have a "plastic" kind of sound, that is hard to explain. Let's say: the opposite of raw black metal. They have very well done keyboard melodies, sometimes you can listen to 3 or more keyboards playing different melodies. It's amazing. The drums are insane. INSANE. As we know, they were programmed on computer, the result in terms of realism was not perfect, and that's why I took 3 points. It's playable, but it's hard, indeed. They didn't compose any impossible drumming, and I think it was to mantain the realism.
14 songs. 4 "intros". It all tells you the story of Elfmuth. There is a map with the cd, in the cover, where you can check the locations. Tolkieeennn? hahaha
They don't seem to follow any kind of formula to do their songs. I'd say that they play avant garde black metal.
The vocals will surprise you in first place. Zakrathor managed to sing with the voice of a tortured soul, a demon, it really seems that he is dying, or burning.
In the song Hult-Garth it's amazing how he managed to scream and sing with clean vocals and it REALLY seems that he is summoning the dead (the song is about it). And all the keys working, and guitars, mostruous drumming.
It's hard to believe that such feelings could be put into music.
Thornset in the guitars and bass. In most of the time he follows the keyboard melodies with the guitar, but, there are some great riffs buried somewhere for you to find, and also, the distortion he uses is amazing! It really fits the music. He changes it during the songs also.
In the same time that they can bring to you demonic feelings, you can also feel like you are listening to a glorious rhapsody song. BUT, Nazgul is far better, KEEP that in your mind.
Overall. This is one of those albums that you will reject in the first listen. It's SO DAMN 'avant garde' that in the beggining, if you are not flexible, it will be boring. But give it a chance, you will find what is inside the songs and understand them better. If you listen once.......well...missing a great experience. At least download the samples in the official website, you will be amazed. I wonder HOW they are so unknown! Noone knows nazgul.
As it has been said: "it's only music". - I'm working a lot to agree with that.
The Dark Lord is calling us to WAR!!!! CRUSH the weakling humans and elves under your feet!!!! Burn their villages and rape their women!!!! Leave none alive save those who are fit to serve Our Dark Liege!!!!!!!! Go!!!!! Spread fear and death among them!!!!!! Take their ears as your trophies, minions of the blackened earth!!!!!!
The first full length release from Italy's Nazgul is nothing short of an orgasmic sonic descent into the darkest reaches of the netherkingdoms beyond the constructs we know as time, space and imagination. This album delivers on what many black metal albums promise - from start to finish it is a soul-pummeling voyage through the hidden portals of your deepest, most primitive psyche, transplanting you into a war-torn dimension of dark epic fantasy, where under violet skies and on war-scorched earth, planetary-scale war is underway between the brutal satanic hordes of Orcdom and a disadvantaged, broken, failing elven-human resistance.
Tolkien lives, indeed, but has been mangled and transfigured by Lovecraft.....
Labeled "Orkish Black Metal" by Zakrathor (vocals, keyboards, drums) and Thornset (guitars, bass), this album chronicles in fourteen gruesome vignettes or poetic "stages", volcanic full-scale war leading to the inevitable crushing demise of humanity and elfdom (light and hope) under the hand of the murderous, monstrous hellcreatures, boiling furiously to extinguish once and for all the dimly flickering light of the Age of Men and triumphantly usher in a new dark age.... the AGE OF THE ORC!
The music is richly organic and highly UNFORMULAIC folkish black metal. Those looking for another Mayhem or Darkthrone clone to add to their collection, look elsewhere. De Expugniatione Elfmuth is driven by a furious and highly original barrage of brutally fast and necro-heavy riffwork , an elaborate lattice of beautiful chords and thunderous, two-hundred-miles-per-second-wardrumming which blend together perfectly to build an atmosphere of deathmarch, epic holocaust, the supreme despair of fallen kingdoms left warriorless, naked and prone to the malicious and long-awaited wrath of brutal inhuman outlanders. There are plenty of keyboard interjections, but the keyboards are a well-done, congruous, perfectly balanced enhancement to the battle-drenched guitar-driven sound. At no point throughout the album does Nazgul go "keyboard-crazy" and allow these effects to throttle or suffocate the unbreakable metallic thrust of the album, as happens all too often on (otherwise decent) black metal albums.
Zakrathor's vocals are unlike anything one has ever heard - so far removed from anything resembling human that one would swear that a slithering, winged, tentacled creature from some long hidden mythology had been conjured up and was shrieking into the microphone. Forget those dime-a-dozen necro-growling vocalists - this makes no attempt to sound like anything familiar, anything friendly, anything you can relate to. And it works. Zakrathor perfectly captures the shocking despair and tortured ugliness of existence - fantastic, prehistoric, medieval or modern. Underneath (and often in balancing contrast to) this artful, tortured, indecipherable shrieking, there are muffled ogrish growls and a well-placed smattering of ominous monk-like incantations.
This is a well-blended, intelligent, delectable medieval grimoire come to musical life, and the dark-age ambience of the entire work is effectively enhanced by lyrics written entirely in Latin. To select one particular piece above the others is to do this album a grave injustice, since all fourteen pieces, from the unmercifully heavy ones through the several that are more glorious and symphonic, harmoniously coalesce into a beautiful collective, creating the amazing literary and sonic orgasmorama that is De Expugniatione Elfmuth. For the skeptical: a few of the tracks that best reflect the fusion/interspersal of brutal black metal with delicate symphonic sensibilities (the consummate Nazgul sound) are "Impetus Quartae Luna Novae", "Legio Draconum Orkian" and "Elficidium"....
Behold - the ancient kingdoms of opulence have long since fallen into vainglory, cynicism and corruption. The once fabled stone battlements and marbled meadhalls are chipping, cracked, in disrepair. The long forgotten enemies of old have returned in swarms to rain ultimate blitzkrieg, death and havoc upon the slumbering weaklings under the darkening skies. There are some pitched battles, arrows vaulted and chivalric assaults to repel the invaders - all feebly wrought to naught in the dramatic and inevitable end. This album is a mouth-watering, bloodsoaked panoply of richly woven dark fantasy, unparalleled war and destruction, and the ultimate victorious emergence of the armies of evil.
It is a twisted, thorn-choked, nightmarish inversion of Tolkien, culminating in the brutal, final elimination of human-elf resistance in the thirteenth piece, "Bellum", wherein the heinous armies of orcish Generals Baazgor and Orkian extinguish with symbolic axe and javelin the last of the resistance.The blasphemous details of the fourteenth piece, "Epilogus", are left to our imaginations. One could easily envision a shocking torch-lit banquet involving thousands of blasphemous mangy, armored nether-creatures, surrounded by the impaled and dying bodies of the conquered, whose women and children have already been given over to slavery, harlotry, torture (worse...?). Sauron sits enthroned, and his conquering generals render a mighty HAIL. The Dark Lord gives the sign for the hordes to commence feastiing on the tender sweet flesh of the conquered.
Although some will surely disagree, I have nothing bad to say about this album, and hope that you are curious enough to atleast give it a listen. It amazes me that this band still remains largely undiscovered. The sparsity of the lyrics contrasted with the density and multitextural layeredness of the music creates a genuinely and uniquely powerful listening (mindscape?) experience. So much, in fact, of De Expugnatione Elfmuth is left to the imagination that, if you aren't careful, you may wake up in jail a week after the first listen, returning from a battle frenzy-induced anti-humanity war-axe killing spree.
This album will kill posers on contact and turn their bodies into quivering, pinkish-red organic putty in ten seconds or less,,,,for a laugh, try it at your next conservative family gathering
For the rest of you - nightmare-fantasy-glory-black-metal-loving cretins and pit-fiends,, I submit to you De Expugniatione Elfmuth,,,, beware this album,,and remember, it's only music,,,,,,,
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AVE SAURON!!!! "Igitur evanescent cum strepitu inter arbores, percussas pavore cum tropaeis funebribus.....auriculis elficis!!!!"