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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 bands...it'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!