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Wotan Above Everything - 90%

AmiralMauth, January 19th, 2013

Although the members of Nitberg are clearly political in ways that many people, myself included, would find repugnant and offensive, I will refrain from commenting on such things in this review.

With that said, I think that Donnerwetter, Donnerwyrd may be one of the very finest Russian NSBM albums I have heard.

Gone are the folk metal inspired hymns of Temnozor'. In this album, Nitberg has a much darker, lo-fi approach that's vaguely reminiscent of Fullmoon's United Aryan Evil. The guitars play a backing role throughout like an angry nest of hornets, whereas percussion is subdued in that all that can generally be heard are the bass drums. Cymbals and other instruments play the occasional role creating an ambiance and rhythm, but the real high point of this album is Kaldrad's clean singing.

There are very rarely any vocals that can be called harsh. Instead, the vocals are strangely hypnotic in a way that many Russian singers strive to be. Kaldrad has truly an excellent voice for these purposes, and from the album's first track, Votan nad vsyemi, to the end, he consistently impressed me with his skill.

I can hardly hear the bass guitar, but I'm not going to count this against the album because bass in metal is not really a major role anyway. Even the guitars in this album were clearly not very important, as there were rarely any riffs beyond repetitive chords and very simple patterns here and there. The emphasis is clearly on the vocals, and again, this is where the album truly excels. Kaldrad offers his prayers to the spirit of Wotan repeatedly, and calls for the greater glory of the Slavic echo across the tracks like cries from a distant time.

One of the reasons I gave this album a 90% rather than a hundred is that some of the songs are rather dull. In these cases, the guitar parts are so subdued that they're almost inaudible, and vocals are so sparsely integrated into the music that they're a surprise to hear. I guess you could say that this is the essence of ambient metal, but it's really not what I expected to hear at all, especially after listening to tracks like Вотан над всеми or Totenkopf. Some ambient metal tracks are great, but these just felt cheap and incomplete.

Another reason I felt that this album was less than perfect was that there's not a lot of diversity in the music at all. I think I could sort every last one of the tracks in this whole album into two or three archetypes. Many albums suffer from this issue, but I felt that this one is particularly unimaginative in that regard. In many ways, Kaldrad could have compressed the best parts of this album into four or five longer tracks and provided us with a much more satisfying piece with a lot less filler.

Overall, though, this album is a must have for any serious fans of Russian black metal or NSBM. Politics aside, this is truly one of the great albums out there and any shortcomings I mentioned above are thoroughly outweighed by this album's strong points: the powerful Russian vocals, the angry, buzzing guitars, and the rapid-fire drumkit.