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Guided by muses of the depths - 80%

autothrall, February 27th, 2010

Of late I've found myself re-visiting a lot of short play releases from the past decade, in particular from underground black metal bands whose full-length material has had me in stitches...not the laughing kind, but the kind you get to cover the open wounds some of this material is capable of carving into your skin and memory. Nocternity is a Greek black metal 3-piece who have issued a pair of decent albums and a few splits, but it's their 2007 Harps of the Ancient Temples EP which I have found the most hypnotizing. Granted, it is extremely brief, with only two tracks at around 11 minutes, and only one of these is an original...but this is definitely the direction I'd like to hear the band proceed in, for it would be likely to evoke a masterpiece of epic proportions should it manifest in a full-length effort.

Nocternity are a little difficult to pin down as far as their exact style, but that is also one of the things I enjoy about them. Not necessarily 'depressive' black metal, but extremely vacuous and grim, with the guitars forming several layers of melody over a slowly moving rhythm over 7 and a half minutes of the title track. For much of its playtime, it is highly repetetive, yet so engrossing that you are cycled far back through time to the vaulted halls of old Europa, in which the vision of the three is manifested as a sorrowed parting. Ravn and Khal Drogo (nice George RR Martin reference) have a subtle beauty to their guitars that truly mirrors the bloodstains of the fallen, whether they are wailing off into the subterranean strata or pushing an exhaustive, bristling distorted rhythmic pattern. The vocals here range from heavily affected narrative grunting to a black rasp that washes across the listener like a livid, sharp wind.

But not only do we have the great original track here...we also get a killer cover of Vangelis' "Crystal Tears - End Titles", from the Blade Runner soundtrack. This is one of the best ideas for a cover I've ever heard from a black metal band, and to top that, they really do it justice with some searing, distorted leads that cover the main synth melody, keeping the ambiance alive with the backing choral synths. Vangelis ist, of course, completely krieg and if this could serve as a gateway for more to discover the man's amazing work, so be it. Very classy of the Greeks to include this here on the EP, and puts it well over the top into the purchase category. An excellent, if brief effort here, and hopefully they can continue to thrill whenever they've prepared their 3rd full-length.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

This is Amazing. - 97%

Vega360, August 21st, 2007

After hearing Vinterriket did some writing with these guys I became interested in hearing some of there material but seeing as any Nocternity full lengths are almost non-existent in a US based distro this 7” was the next best thing. After my first listen I couldn’t really make heads or tails of the music so I just put the EP away in my collection, until I got Onyx then it all made sense.

Musically this is all about atmosphere. Vinterriket’s synth becomes a third guitar in the workings of the music and thus the band has managed to make an atmosphere within an atmosphere. The sound has three layers; the distorted nightmare with the drums and I’m assuming the bass guitar in it, the clean layer with the synth and melodic guitars, and the vocals which are so buried they sound like a voice in the wind.

The B side track has a little bit more rhythm and consistency to it than the A side. While the A side is practically devoid of any thing but atmosphere (which is by no means a bad thing) the B side track has some what of an existence to it. There is something that could almost be classified as a riff which gives the song its feel and the drumming is consistent with this so you almost get a folk song that was metalized then transformed into whatever you would label the A side track.

Harps of the Ancient Temples isn’t for everybody obviously. The bass, drums and vocals are lost almost entirely, you know they are there but finding them is impossible. The only things you can focus on are the synth and the melodic guitars which are balanced perfectly against the mess of distortion; you can almost see the different sound layers (I probably should actually sleep before I listen to this again).

This is limited to 500 copies so get it while you can, trust me if you live on atmospheric music this will keep you happy for some time.