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Remarkable pagan metal... - 96%

AmiralMauth, June 17th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2009, CD, Oriana Music

Nokturnal Mortum is one of the original bands that paved the way for black and pagan metal in the Slavic nations. I was introduced to its work via its unremarkable contribution to The Night and the Fog Volume II, an NSBM compilation tape. However, some years ago, friends informed me of the group's most recent album--Voice of Steel--and when I listened to it, I was immediately hooked.

One of the high points of Голос сталі is its use of the violin and other instruments that rarely see their place in black metal. Keyboards are well appreciated, but the guitars cannot be neglected. They provide a rhythmic blood flow for the rest of the music, and Knyaz's vocals are a powerful salute to the pagan heritage of the Slavic peoples. Each song neatly flows into the other, but a few motifs reappear constantly.

Guitars are frequently used as a rhythm instrument instead of letting it take the limelight. Simple, playful violin sections stand just a little bit before the guitar part. Whereas many black metal artists use keyboards to create dissonance and depressing ambiance, Nokturnal Mortum's keyboards are used to create an ethereal, almost mystical presence about the music. They've got a ton of effects to them, no doubt about that, but it's my understanding that NM uses keyboards live, so I am not unimpressed at all. Drum work that isn't typical in black metal. It's not ultra-fast or ultra-aggressive. Plenty of tom and cymbal work help to continue the pagan feel of the album. Vocals are screamed rather than growled. This is pretty important, because I doubt Голос сталі would work if Knyaz used a death growl, or if he did a harsher shriek. The current vocal use keeps the album accessible to a wider audience of metalheads.

This is a very impressive album, and it's historically significant too: it came out just around the time when people were really pushing the limits of black/pagan/folk metal, and Nokturnal Mortum's connections to more radical bands--and its own past--are perhaps an indication of black metal's continued evolution. I highly recommend it to all metal heads, and my only complaints are that there aren't enough dark moments or clean vocals to round out this otherwise perfect album. The creativity at play here is something that a lot of pagan bands try to pull off, but Nokturnal Mortum really hit the nail on the head here.

Magnum Opus - 100%

Mealann, May 26th, 2014

If you follow recent happenings in Ukraine and are rather indifferent to this situation, listening to this album may change your stance. What has started in Norway and spread all over the world, found a very comfortable place in Ukraine, as bands from this country keep on setting new milestones in terms of quality and atmosphere of black metal art. I delayed listening to Nokturnal Mortum for almost two years, because I expected nothing else but "true" and rather raw black metal. What I found here was a contradiction of my expectations. In times, when new albums strike with lack of originality, quality, atmosphere and fresh ideas, one may wonder if he's getting old, or just music gets crap. Maybe both, but it's a great relief to madly fall in love with an unknown release after first listen. This is Голос сталі's case.

Without further poetry, this is a flawless album. Four years of preparation are fully justified. Everything is just as it should be. There is no single element, which might feel out of place. Production is exemplary, all instruments, riffs, vocals, lyrics are fully distinguishable. It's not clean and polished, but it's very fresh, still maintaining the black metal aesthetics. Against complaints made by listeners, that Nokturnal Mortum's keys are cheesy, which is kind of true for their older releases, this time they hit just the perfect spot. And it's not just bunch of simple, burzumish ambient layers. Varying from subtle, atmospheric fillers, ending on actually electronic arpeggios in the last track, they add another dimension to these already perfect tracks. Also melodies are one of the aspects, which is a huge upside. Everything is highly memorable, without being cheap and most importantly, it's highly sensible. Vocals are also full of diversity. They are mostly powerful, yet subtle growls. Occasionally, we can hear clean, backing male choirs, as well as spoken and even sung passages.

There is a huge amount of different, real instruments, rendering this release incredibly folkish. The most notable folk track is, without a surprise, Україна, which from the very beginning takes the listener on the epic journey, with a big, tasty cherry on top of it, which is the incredibly catchy and moving chorus, sang with clean vocals. It doesn't mean, that other tracks are not packed with folk elements. Each track has something else to offer. Each track is an entity on its own, yet they are all fully consistent as the album. This is not a release, when listeners are left with much occasions to wonder "what is this for?" or "when it's gonna end?". It starts mysteriously, achieves full force during Валькирия (hail Ukrainian blackened Pink Floyd) and Україна tracks, then regresses into subtler, atmospheric and even non-metal territories, to end with another masterpiece, which is Біла вежа - exemplary track how to be amazing in progressive black metal, using all possible means to achieve godlike atmosphere.

Голос сталі is a perfect example of (pagan) black metal release. Whether you pick production, compositions, diversity, atmosphere - everything is top notch quality. 100% rating isn't an exaggeration by any means. There is no single thing on this album I could complain about. Masterpiece.

Epic - 100%

Juan97, December 15th, 2013

More than four years after the release of their previous LP, 2005’s Weltanschauung, Ukranian symphonic black metal band Nokturnal Mortum have presented us with The Voice Of Steel, an album which is both insanely varied and rock-solid. The amalgam of traditional eastern-European folk music, symphonic black metal, and touches of genres like blues and hard rock make Voice Of Steel easily the most bold release of Nokturnal Mortum’s career. The black metal portion is less keyboard-centered, instead going for numerous guitar solos which draw influences from a wide array of musical styles and a good emphasis on the bass guitar. This styling really helps keep the one hour and twelve minute album from growing stale, and also shows a giant leap in songwriting progression for the band.

Save two tracks, each song clocks in at over eight minutes, going to upwards of twelve. This leaves a lot of room for a vast array of different riffs and transitions which make the ending of each song sound a world away from the beginning. Take, for instance, the third track “Valkyrie”: the song starts off right from the get-go with intensely heavy black metal laden with tremolo picking and blast beats before it breaks into a symphonic bridge before transitioning to clean chanting vocals, only to move to a slower guitar solo which brings to mind influences from 80’s metal to hard rock, before slamming you with more black metal. It might sound crazy, but Nokturnal Mortum somehow makes each and every song enjoyable despite countless different sounds flying around. The pristine production helps facilitate such a strong atmosphere, with each and every instrument audible at all times.

Indeed, the increased use of melody really makes The Voice Of Steel an enjoyable listen and more than just an album which you will listen to once every few months. In both the verse riffing and the multiple guitar solos which show off a huge display of technicality which Nokturnal Mortum was, for some reason, hiding for so long, you will find excellent songwriting and a keen ear for harmony that helps to keep things constantly fresh. The atmospheric tracks like “My Dream Islands” and “Sky Of Saddened Nights” provide both an increased synth display as well as a calm, almost beautiful side to the music which even further displays the daunting array of different sounds displayed here. The heavier tracks, as well, often showcase extremely heavy mid-paced black metal which never overstays its welcome but almost always adds a solid base on which to build the remainder of the song.

It’s really impossible to fully describe how exactly The Voice Of Steel sounds. It’s a unique album which most certainly deserves a spot in the top black metal releases of the year, as well as yet another affirmation that Nokturnal Mortum are one of the most consistently good symphonic black metal bands in the scene. Their music, as it is displayed here, has matured to a sound which sets this band apart from any other in the world. The raspy scream of Varggoth to the hugely atmospheric cleans of guest musician W. Angel provide engaging vocal arrangements on top of the impressive musicianship, and as a package The Voice Of Steel far and away surpasses fellow Ukranian band Drudkh’s latest album Microcosmos, probably the only other release which sounds even close to what is displayed here. Four years was a while to wait for this album, but with the quality displayed on The Voice Of Steel, it would have been worth the wait even if the album took another four to complete.

originally written in

Too many lengths harm the good basis - 72%

kluseba, July 12th, 2012

Nokturnal Mortum are a critically highly acclaimed underground metal band from Kharkiv that performs some sort of epic blackened folk metal with Ukrainian lyrics. This basis is already rather intriguing and original and makes this record an interesting exotic gem for any black, doom or folk metal fan. After several overwhelming critics I was curious to try their latest output out. Among many positive things, I also found some negative facts.

Many songs are simply too long and start to sounds somewhat redundant to my ears. The whole record would sound more coherent, emotional and fluid if the band would be able to cut off some unnecessary instrumental parts and focus on song lengths somewhere between five and seven minutes instead of having tracks that almost crack the ten, eleven or even twelve minute mark. The songs are mostly not atmospheric, original or progressive enough to be that long in my humble opinion.

Apart of the introduction, the shortest track happens to be "Небо Сумних Ночей" which is one of the most haunting tracks. The music reminds me a lot of the old band The Moody Blues with some Jethro Tull folk elements. This floating ballad convinces with its narrative style and develops a magic atmosphere in this relatively short running time.

While the musicians in the band seem to be quite skilled, they definitely use too many keyboard passages and sound samples in my opinion. They should also focus on more gripping riffs and elaborate on their good ideas. The musicians often come around with a magic melody but they keep on continuing playing the same chords all the time or these melodies often come back so that this certain kind of magic floats away like the morning dew next to a foggy river. The vocals have some good aspects. The calm parts entirely convince while the more blackened parts are very solid in general but could vary more. A perfect example for all the things mentioned in this paragraphe is the closing "Біла Вежа". It's not a bad song but there are way too many strange samples, the melodies are dumbly repeated and create a hypnotizing but not truly passionate atmosphere and the vocals sound strong at first try but always turn out to stay the same throughout the whole track. The band often happens to waste their potential in their long tracks and there are almost just epic songs on this album.

In the end, I can understand why many people describe this band as promising and talented. The magic moments are there but they are simply too stretched. The good ideas are present but repeated too much. The songs could be amazing but are almost all several minutes too long and I normally have no problem with epic tracks. Fans of atmospheric, folkish and mostly slow black metal or ambient music or even shoegaze will surely like this record. Anybody else might not share the opinion that this record is a masterpiece and it's sometimes hard to sit through the entire album. If the band decides to do some shorter stuff, I would be willing to follow them and try their future works out again but they definitely need some changes.

One of the few perfect albums - 100%

The_Ghoul, July 10th, 2012

In the past several years, I have grown increasingly critical of music. My ears have sharpened, and I've listened to a broader spectrum of music, so it takes a little more these days to impress me. Well, as the 100 would imply, I am more than impressed with The Voice of Steel.

Nokturnal Mortum are a band that have been on my radar for a while, and while I dug their previous works, none of them really captured my ears quite like The Voice of Steel. From day one, I was completely hooked on this newly evolved style of black metal that fuses in psychedelic rock to go along with the traditionally ambient use of keyboards in the genre of minimalist melodic black metal. Here, such external influences abound, and sometimes get several minutes of airtime. I remember first listening to this, and though I was digging the title track, about halfway through Valkyries, the next song, I almost did a double take. "Grateful Dead? In my black metal?" I nearly pooped hammers on the spot. It doesn't sound like it will work on paper, but Nokturnal Mortum make it their own, and completely overwhelm your senses with passages of striking astral beauty, all replete with a smokin' clean (or mostly clean) guitar solo, followed by a bunch of open chords that were more akin to shoegaze rock of the mid 90's (if you don't know what shoegaze is, look it up) than to traditional black metal.

These references to psychedelic/acid rock continue throughout this album. Indeed, this is one among few black metal albums I'd call "far out, man." For, as I've seen, Nokturnal Mortum are the masters of a key aspect of good music: balance. There are clean vocals (a lot of them) but they do not dominate, and are balanced out with really well done dirty vocals. The guitars are the same way, in that there are passages of beautiful yet, oddly enough, "groovy" clean guitar/synth passages, yet they are balanced out with passages of pure black metal fury. The drummer knows very well when to mix things up, because he's more than happy to groove instead of blast, yet moderates it and still gives us that trademark black metal aggression. This, by the way, is one of the few instances I'm cool with grooving on the drums. Like every idea presented on here, it does not dominate, and is balanced out with other equally well ideas.

I listen to this, and I honestly try to find flaws with it. I've had a bit of experience with the production/performing aspect of music in the last year or so, and it has trained my ear to pick out really minute detail. And, as much as I like to retain my composure and pride, I cannot pick out a single detail of this I don't like. Each one of these details are used very masterfully, with craftwork restraint and performer's confidence. I honestly cannot think of another album that I have liked more in the last 4 or so years. It's that wonderful.

Cannot be faulted; absolutely perfect - 100%

PhantomMullet, November 11th, 2011

The Voice of Steel is by far one of the best metal albums I've ever heard. This album took forever to come out - I remember hearing about its release several weeks after Weltenschauung was out back in 2005! Four years later, it begs the question of wondering what the hell Nokturnal Mortum's members were doing with their time, but as soon as I heard this, I couldn't care less that it took a really long time to come out. The wait was absolutely worth it.

What I like most about this album is that in addition to several areas reminding me of the band's other releases, it has its own sound under a layer of high quality and musical professionalism. Every track is completely distinct from each other. Some tracks are fairly normal for Nokturnal Mortum's standards, but others are completely off the wall - very different from anything else they've done, but far from gimmicky or being a novelty act. It's all great.

Fans of Weltenschauung and NeChrist will eat up tracks like Voice of Steel and By Path of the Sun....both have the standard Nokturnal Mortum feel - long, heavy tracks filled with a plethora of folk elements and growling vocals courtesy of Varggoth. The main difference is how melodic these tracks, oh, and if you thought Weltenschauung had too thick production which made for a dry sound, you'll be happy to know how clear the production is in all of these songs. Everything sounds so fresh, inviting, and lively.

Remember the band's Hymn of Ukraine instrumental from the old Marble Moon EP? Well, the track called Ukraine seems to be a great metal version of that. The song is catchy from the start and the chorus is something you could hum along too. The chorus also contains clean vocals which are indeed very well done. This is one of the more triumphant tracks on the album. Nokturnal Mortum also shows off its melodic side with White Tower - a fantastic closer to the album with outstanding riffs, keyboards, and very memorable ideas. It's tough to figure out what the intended mood of this song was, but it's a very beautiful song nonetheless.

My Dream Islands and Sky of Saddened Nights are where things start get even more interesting. The former seems heavily influenced by a lot of older proggressive metal's a twelve minute track that can be a bit repetitive, but makes very subtle changes in consistently smooth flowing manner. It creates a vibrant atmosphere that is relaxing. Sky of Saddened Nights is full of folk instruments and clean vocals that provide a curious background in a peaceful and blissful tone.

But none of this compares to the awesomeness found in Valkyrie. Valkyrie really brings the Voice of Steel up several notches. The main source of this greatness is in the middle of the song, where it's only a lead guitar playing with support from drums and bass in the background. This part sounds incredibly experimental and improvised - it was almost as if the lead guitarist recorded his part with no necessary plan and kind of just ran with whatever he wanted to do. It all lasts nearly five minutes and you keep getting fooled, thinking that part will end soon. When it does end, it's a fantastic transition when all the other instruments join in full force. Listening to Valkyrie was truly a unique experience.

When it comes down to it, The Voice of Steel is absolutely flawless. Every band member has given their best effort and there is great chemistry going on. The sound is clear, the music is entertaining, the songs are innovative and creative and the performance is highly professional. It doesn't matter whether you hate or love Nokturnal Mortum; this is a fine piece of music that should be listened to by anyone who considers themselves metal fans. I have no idea how their next album will compete against this!

Voice of Steel - 100%

ShadowSouled, January 15th, 2010

Nokturnal Mortum has been one of the long standing staples of Ukrainan black metal; although their later compositions showcased a change in style, incorporating folkier elements than their previous releases, the overall quality of the material produced has steadily improved. Bearing this in mind, one should expect nothing short of brilliance in Voice of Steel.

This is Nokturnal Mortum's 5th album to date, consisting of 8 tracks and clocking in at a massive 69 minutes; what is more impressive than the length of the album is the fact that it is able to keep a hold on its listener right up until the end. The first track serves as an introduction; showcasing various folk instruments and a hammer striking an anvil among other things, it adequately prepares the listener for the next track. The musicians' scope and skill have increased since Weltanshauung. For example, the riffs are mindblowing as they were in that album; however, they all have a distinct progressive, "Pink Floyd" sound to them, which is especially prominent in the solos. The drumming is quite skilled, coping with odd timings with relative ease. Varggoth's demented shriek is still very much present in this album, although it is counterbalanced by very well-performed clean vocals. The host of folk instruments used in the album serve to provide an almost uplifting, upbeat atmosphere; however, this is far from being a party folk metal album. The production values are excellent, allowing the listener to hear each individual instrument with optimal sound quality.

To put it in four words, this album is mindblowing. If you enjoyed Weltanshauung - actually, even if you didn't, and you hate this genre in its entirety - buy this album. I guarantee that you will find at least one thing about it that you will love. Within that hour and ten minutes is regrouped everything that makes Nokturnal Mortum one of the bands at the forefront of the pagan metal movement. Highly recommended.

I'll have what they're drinking, please - 100%

autothrall, December 29th, 2009

Speak what ills you wish of the checkered past of the Ukraine''s mightiest band...their ideologies, their hostilities, their gimmicks, and their unshakable ability to develop an increasing cult following in the face of a world that defies just about every lyrical message they pen. Nokturnal Mortum are capable of some pretty incredible music when they set their minds to it, and The Voice of Steel is the best album they have produced since To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire, 11 years past. The sound is huge and swelling, and I would dare to say this is their most accessible work, sure to enthrall the masses of come-lately pagan, folk and melodic black metal as much as the band''s original fans. But make no mistake, the convictions remain firm, and this is no flighty journey into a friendly song, but a herculean effort of pagan metal that bathes in the glory of past fires and winds. It''s fucking unbelievable.

The lineup here is a little different than the previous Weltanschauung. Varggoth remains on the vocals and guitars, and he sounds intense here. Saturious handles the keyboards and folk instrumentation, and they are joined by bassist Vrolok, drummer Bairoth and Astargh on the other guitar. They are also joined by several other contributing guitar players for several of the leads, as well as former fulltime members like Odalv. Yes, you could consider this some grand woodland meeting of all a near army of Ukraine''s warriors, and the songs produced through The Voice of Steel shall surely become their anthem.

The horns and strings of the intro resound across the hills and copses like a narrator of ancient glories that speaks in winds, while the percussion of the earth rises to stoke the forge of our inevitable armageddon. "Голос сталі (The Voice of Steel)" arrives with thundering drums and drudging, barbaric guitar lines, before the strings conjure forth a bold orchestration, somewhat akin to Graveland if he was rocking a 30-40 piece orchestra. Vocal choirs, gnarled Varggoth vocals of Eld, and rousing flute bridges conjure one of the most powerful Northern folk metal tunes of the year, and for nearly 10 minutes you are savaged by this renewed, vital band. "Валькирия (Valkyrie)" marches across you like an entire army of risen warrior spirits, a solid block of symphonic black metal that recalls some of their stronger work of over 10 years back. It''s beautiful, graceful; never once does the blade dull for over 10 minutes...even when they pull out a blues solo over the tribal folk of the mid section. "Україна (Ukraine)" could not be a more fitting tribute to the band''s beautiful homeland, glistening with lovely strings and a powerful atmosphere that makes Arkona look novice (and I love that band).

The album takes a somewhat more progressive turn with "Моєї мрії острови (My Dream Islands)". It still maintains its incredibly dense atmosphere, but subtle synth rhythms and curious riffs burrow themselves into the walls of bristling spear-guitars that provide the brunt of the charge. "Шляхом сонця (By Path of the Sun)" is as broiling and catchy as the surface of the star it worships, with a glorious verse in which the vocals turn more cookie monster and manly, as the drums storm through the heavens. "Небо сумних ночей (Sky of Saddened Nights)" is a brilliant acoustic folk track, with amazing vocals and despite its brevity (well, 5 minutes if brief only when compared to its neighbors), it is one of the best songs of their career. But Nokturnal Mortum will hit you up for one more, 12 minute epic to close off this bold effort, and that is the brilliant "Біла вежа (White Tower)", which evolves through beautiful synthscapes and proggish folk wanderings into a savage majesty that calls the heart of every man to war.

Yeah, The Voice of Steel pretty much knocked me out of my seat and back through the centuries to touch my inner pagan. The sound on this album is just unreal, so much depth delivered through so many layers, and not afraid to incorporate a subtle touch of modern sounds into its rolling glories (soundtrack swells, even a little lush 80s New Age pop). This album is not quite so brutal and effective as To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire...that is to say, of the 71 minute playtime, there may have been 1 or 2 minutes in which I was not entirely enthralled. Which is not enough downtime to offer it less than the highest accolades. It''s a little less dark, quite bright and positive feeling than previous albums, honestly, and for this reason it may be a ''first'' for many who did not previously enjoy the band''s catalog. But Nokturnal Mortum lose nothing of their desperation, of their message, or integrity''s just a stunning piece of music that honors both its influences (Graveland, etc) and its culture.

Highlights: the sun also rises.


A New, More Diverse Nokturnal Mortum - 95%

BanginTheDead, December 29th, 2009

When the first notes of the album hit, you'd think you were listening to NeChrist. The same Ukrainian [war horn] is sound off, though instead of going into the blasting fury of Funeral Winds of Oriana we are treated to a folky piece that serves as a wonderful introduction into Voice of Steel. This song is powerful and direct, making use of some stringed instrumentation and choir-like vocals that add great effect to the atmosphere. Right away you can notice something new and different about Nokturnal Mortum. The song picks up about midway through, getting faster and more intense, flowing into some sounds of war that carry the track to it's end.
Valkyrie starts off strong, with some great mid paced riffing and double bass. About a third of the way through, we are really given something unique as a bluesy/proggy lead comes blaring out. This really carries the song to a new plateau as it leads into some more distortion and a driving drum sound. Some excellent clean backing vocals provided by W. Angel really push the song back into a faster pace section. The song begins to fade out as sounds of the ocean fade in.

Coming straight out of the peace are the folky instrumentation of Ukraine. Another mid paced black metal piece that makes use of the clean backing vocals again. This song has an almost anthemic quality to it when the chorus comes in with some powerful repeating clean lines, backed by Varggoth's screams. Leading out of that is yet another beautiful lead with a quality tone. Following that the anthem continues until the piece fades out into more sounds of the ocean. We are carried away to My Dream Islands, which begins with some nice synth work and a slower paced distorted riff. The song then slows to a bluesy guitar piece and erupts back into mid paced black metal with those lovely synth accompaniments. This track seems to make the most use of keys, playing their gorgeous symphonics over the riffing, actually pushing the song's momentum forward. The song breaks down again towards the midsection with some slow riffs over some distant and distorted vocals and keyboard passages before an absolutely wonderful lead is presented. Breaking out of that is another proggy lead that explodes until an all out wall of sound. The song again, fades into some ocean sounds until the drums of By Path of the Sun come in. This song starts out with some more yelling styled vocals, until it explodes into black metal rage. The synths assist this with some epic atmospheres. Some folk passages are added as well, while the music continues to stay fast paced and intense.

Sky of Saddened Nights begins with some acoustic and clean tremelo. A more folk inspired song, this continues on with some clean-ish vocals. Some flutes and keys are introduced as the song builds. White Tower begins with some eerie synth chords out of which smooth clean lines and played over more a rock-inspired drum line. The song builds into a mid paced riff with harsh vocals screamed over and more epic synths. The feeling of this piece is very spacey and depressing. The song remains this way for it's entirety, though building to more climatic moments. A very strong closer for a very strong album. The Voice of Steel has really shown that Nokturnal Mortum is capable of broadening their musical boundaries. As an avid fan of most of their work I can say that I really enjoy this new direction. An extremely well thought out album full of intense emotions.