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A Fallen Unicorn begins much like Nocternity's sophomore Onyx ended, with the contribution of a Vinterriket ambient piece that really sets the mood for the ensuing mayhem. Granted, the bright and soothing ebb and flow of the synthesizers creates a massive contrast to the blasted pace of "A Fallen Unicorn", which seems like a mix of old Emperor and Burzum with the tinge of angelic vocals hovering below the violent ballast. Though the beat here does grow monotonous, I actually quite enjoyed this, more so than any of the Greeks' prior fast paced material. The force with which the tremolo guitars collide into one another alongside the airy rasping is just as engrossing as anything on the prior album.
"The Emerald Serpent Prince" follows with an even deeper level of aggression, this time with more submerged, subdued guitars with less implicit melodies. I definitely felt that same swollen, epic envelope that I once experienced with De Mysteriis dom Sathanas or In the Nightside Eclipse, though the notation is not quite that catchy. On "To Grey Olden Shores", they finally shift the pace towards a slower, denser atmospheric march that somewhat breaks up the one track nature of the previous metallic content, and this particular track breathes the wonder and ichor that was inherent to Onyx or the debut En Orio, with all the subterfuge that the soaked walls of distortion can afford. Lastly, Nocternity has included this amazing, industrial/ambient cover of none other than Björk's "Pagan Poetry", totally unexpected and impressive, what with its crashing percussive waves, distant guitar fuzz and zephyr-like, snarled rendition of the vocals.
When it comes to selecting such tributes, Nocternity is in a league of its own (their version of the Vangelis Blade Runner theme on a later EP is also noteworthy), and in their able claws, the worldly pop is easily transmuted into the graphic hostility of a martial black ambiance. It's yet another example of the band's application of imagination into what is naturally a pretty stale medium for creativity. Yeah, a lot of their black metal blasting is redolent of a hundred or more other artists, but they dress this with the lyrics of the fantastical and mythic, the added covers, and some of the finer instrumental, non-metal sequences of any in the Hellenic scene. The lyrics are beautiful, and this is someone who generally rolls eyes at the fairytale appeal of the titular track. A Fallen Unicorn is thus another worthy item to track down if you approved of their previous release, and another step forward into the mists of passion, despair and potential.
After the splendid “Onyx” full-length, Nocternity presents three studio tracks here from the same recording sessions. One could claim that the Greek band is gathering some momentum with this mini-lp release and the splits with Akitsa, Morrigan and Nastrond before the third longplayer, but could we do without these three songs?
No, absolutely not! This small gem is by no way superfluous. Once you are enchanted by “Onyx”, you definitely want this supplement as well. The only thing one could ask is: why were the three tracks not immediately pressed on the Onyx album, which was only about 37 minutes long?
The music is obviously in the same vein as its predecessor: original black metal that can not at all be compared to the old Greek ones like Necromantia, Rotting Christ or Varathron. The music has a Nordic, icy atmosphere, but I cannot name you one blackmetal band with the same sound. A unique feeling is experienced when listening to Nocternity: haunting riffs combined with pounding drums and effective keys make me shiver continiously. I usually dislike the use of keyboards in black metal, but here is a band that knows their craft: no happy shit, but strong, epic parts that sustain the melancholy and melody of the tracks. The vocals are raw and malicious. Furious blasts and ever present melodies prevent Nocternity from getting dull for one moment.
For a black metal band Nocternity also has a remarkable production: the sound is very heavy, but quite clear: no low-fi static noise to mask playing disabilities and enhance the “cult” value, but a very strong and convincing sound which overwhelms the listener.
No standout song here: in fact all three of them stand out as strong, epic, blackmetal hymns! This mini-lp has a Bjork-cover (Pagan poetry) as outro, and the mini-cd contains some bonus tracks. I think two real songs of which one is another version of the title-track.
To sum up: Nocternity is one of the best blackmetal bands around and “Onyx” is a must-have! All people who have that album will certainly chase “A fallen unicorn” as well, but of course you can also use this release as an appetizer. Ninety points because it’s not a full-length.