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The Finnish multi-instrumentalist Lauri Penttilä, who usually goes by the name of Werwolf, is a somewhat strange figure. In addition to playing in numerous black metal bands and running his own record label, he fronts the heavy/glam metal band Armour, who have been featured on Finnish national TV. Internationally he is probably best known for being the sole member of underground black metal force Satanic Warmaster, who have gotten unwanted attention in the past due to some not so subtle flirtations with right wing-extremism. In kinder terms, Werwolf is a multifaceted artist who is no stranger to controversy. Satanic Warmaster latest album, Nachzehrer, was originally released in 2010, and is being reissued by Penttilä’s own Werewolf Records.
Besides the air of controversy, Satanic Warmaster-albums are usually revered for a primitive take on black metal. Simplistic yet memorable riffs are processed through a raw production to produce a barbaric but uniquely cold sound, best exemplified on the excellent preceding album Carelian Satanist Madness. Besides a large number of splits and EPs, Nachzehrer came out after a five year interval from the predecessor, to big expectations and some trepidation.
As expected, Nachzehrer is packed with grim riffs, atmospheric ambient pieces, and lyrics about werewolves, vampires, and ravens. Leave it to other bands to experiment, Satanic Warmaster is an institution that thrives on repeating themes. This penchant for reiteration isn't necessarily a bad thing, and fans of the band will find things to like about this album. On the other hand, whereas Carelian Satanist Madness built upon what came before in order to produce something better, Nachzehrer feels like a step in the wrong direction.
With the exception of the exceptional “One Shining Star”, these songs feel like they've all been surpassed on previous albums. The thrash metal riffing is often forgettable, and when it slows down on “Rotting Raven’s Blood” the atmosphere is lackluster. The closing ambient-piece “Utug-Hul” sounds like a retread of the intro to the 2005 compilation Black Metal Kommando. Instead of being over and beyond the raw black metal standard, Nachzehrer is simply adequate. Annoyingly, the multitude of splits that Satanic Warmaster have released since Carelian Satanist Madness include many examples of better crafted material.
If Nachzehrer was released by a debuting band, I would have considered it promising yet flawed. As a Satanic Warmaster-effort it’s a flat-out disappointment, and falls into the lower tiers of the band’s extensive discography. Hopefully the next album will see Werwolf return to form, and in the meantime this album is only recommended for insatiable fans.
Written for The Metal Observer
There it is: the fifth full length of Satanic Warmaster. Five years and countless split releases in between, this album marked some kind of return of the band, which seems extremely odd to me, because the member(s) of the band have never dissapeared; always active with dozens of side-projects and the fitting basement-recordlabels to toss their stuff into the world, etc.. I was curious to check it out and got the lp, which comes in a good looking, yet basic sleeve with dito artwork.
The first track is an average one, it's got nothing unusual, the usual blastbeats and keyboards are there. If it set the mood for the album, we're in for unspectacular, yet entertaining metal. It has all the standards that also appeared on their previous album. In fact, it could have been on that album, since it follows the same recipe of taking a guitarriff from an other, known band, and building a new song around by adding one or two riffs. As I said, just like the previous (and all albums before that), unspectactular stuff, and not even worth the disc space to have the album in digital format, but entertaining enough to hear at a friends' place once per year. The following tracks are even less interesting, and when the record has flipped onto the other side, it just goes further downhill.
I've followed satanic warmaster since their first Von-clone that was their demotape. From there on, the band changed music and ideology quite a bit, to this new album "Nachzehrer". I'm playing this record now for the fifth time, just to get to know the feel of the album. Though this proved to be not necessary; it's that predictable, even the second time it's quite a task to stay focused! It's a typical play-once, "how many times have I heard that riff before", and-forget kind of album, as literally everything on the album has been done before - and much better I can add.
The riffs on this record mostly resemble the pre-SW band Pest, which was nothing more than a one-off Bathory clone. The songs have mostly a thrash metal / pop rock feel to them, for optimal "hum along" riffs, alternated with mid-tempo parts, to have at least some diversity on the album. Even the novice guitarist-type guitarsolos are there - you know what I mean, guitarist who can't actually play any solos and instead just hit random notes high on the neck whilst tremolopicking all high three strings together.
As on almost all modern black metal records, Vocal patterns are done really bad. There absolutely no sense of rhythm in the text placement. It's too bad noone does this really. The band seems to care about their lyrics; all the clichés are embarrasingly obvious there: werewolves, national socialism, nocturnal creatures, satanism, etc etc (though I will not even begin to question how ALL these themes can be used by one band, let alone on one album!), though they are totally misplaced over the music, so instead of creating some kind of atmosphere, it's just screamed over the music senselessly.
To me, this is exactly what is wrong with "black metal scene" from nowadays. A lot of big-mouthing, causing the band to get kicked off of multiple festivals, but I'm afraid to say this follows the satanic warmaster musical and ideological legacy by being an album without any substance. It's so standard, it's not even funny listening to it as an example for standard modern black metal.
Few can do it better than Satanic Tyrant Werwolf. By "it", I mean creating the most intense and hate inducing(or producing), somber and dismal black metal warfare there is. And I know that's a mighty bold statement considering all the bands that now flood what once was a genre obscured. It seems with this album and other more recent releases from him that he is trying to uphold that tradition. Those who are familiar with Satanic Warmaster and the dynamics of black metal understand this. Those people should also be aware of his prowess in the black metal genre and if you don't then you should go put in the new Dimmu Borgir single which is more fitting for you. It seems that the man behind the name has gone to extremes to keep his physical releases as obscure as possible because he knows what black metal's original intention was - not being accessible to people undeserving of it, the fucking poseurs that are tearing down what is more than just a genre of music, the disgusting beauty that is raw black metal. Does that sound elitist? Well, yes! And STW is more than likely okay with that.
Musically, it seems STW has grown a lot but not to the point of deviating from the primitive sound that I've always enjoyed from him. It becomes apparent with one listen to this album. I'm also assuming by looking at the liner notes in the packaging that he still does nearly everything himself which is impressive considering the drums sound better than on any previous album save "Carelian Satanist Madness" which was an amazing album but not quite as complete of an album as the one reviewed here.
Tremelo picking is something that is essential in this genre. On this album, especially on "Warmaster Returns", it is a very mid-paced tremolo wobble which I like a lot because there is a bit of a groove but then he throws you off balance by speeding up the riffing and drumming dramatically. The chaos continues with hammer-ons and bendy Celtic Frost-type shit that can be heard on songs like "Vampires" and there is also a blistering unforgiving solo. "Rotting Raven's Blood" has definite Darkthrone influences in it, especially on the opening riff, reminding me of "Quintessence" or "Hordes of Nebulah" from "Panzerfaust". The best display of guitar composition on the album has to be on "One Shining Star", a song that brings forth the feeling that good old school black metal does. Sounds only like 2 or 3 guitar tracks on the song which is impressive. There is some kind of synth effect towards the end of the song which adds an eerie twist, making it even more somber and evil sounding. Well done and perfectly placed. My personal favorite track on the album is "Bestial Darkness". It opens with what sounds like an organ and then bursts into raunchy riff after raunchy riff and then a lethal solo to top it off.
Satanic Tyrant Werwolf's vocals are absolutely insane. Perfect. It's nothing really fresh or new about the style but the lyrics are a little more distinguishable on this album. That doesn't mean that the production is overdone by any means. A perfect example of his superior vocals are on "Rotting Raven's Blood". Lesser black metal vocalists could only dream of the raspy rants from Hades that STW does so well. Again, upholding tradition properly. The last song's vocals are very ritualistic and occult-based. The music itself in that song is a dreary synth/keyboard/organ sound. A wonderful outro to a wonderful album.
I'm giving this album a 100% because it's a complete black metal album by keeping tradition alive from a musical, lyrical and image perspective. Every song is top-notch, the lyrics are creative and the artwork is masterfully done. This album crushes the skulls of the weak with a war-hammer. I'm not going to tell you to go and buy this because more than likely, you don't deserve it. You'll probably download it anyways. And if you do, fuck off!
The title of this has double meaning; obviously, firstly, it refers to the return of Satanic Warmaster and secondly the feel it gave me reminded me of Bathory's "The Return", if only in comparison to SW's last full-length, the ungodly brilliant "Karelian Satanist Madness". Whereas the production on the aforementioned "KSM" was quite crisp and ripping while still being raw, the sound on this newest is a seemingly huge step backward in quality and history. But is it?
Obviously Satanic Tyrant Werwolf, or whatever he's calling himself today, knows the ins and outs of production technique, and thereby has purposely created this dense miasma of murky buzzing...in fact, it is proudly stated on the album that it was recorded entirely on an analogue 4 track device! However, while sounding very primitive there is an amount of subcontext within the music that is really satisfying. After all, nobody is going to be buying a Satanic Warmaster album expecting a lush pageant of symphonic wonderment, they should be expecting nothing but hateful black metal done in a style that pays homage to the beginning of the movement. For many, this is stagnant and not innovative, but for many others it fills the void left by all the more critically revered innovators. Hell, if you like a style of music, you like it and don't WANT it to mutate into some faggy prog crap!
It is pointless to try to explain the songs; they are all within the same framework of any other SW material: very cool guitar riffs and rhythms, some clanking real drums, a purported bass guitar lurking somewhere in the machinegunfactorywork of death, and the utterly vitriolic scraping of tombstones that serve as the vocals. While not unique in any way, these are all top-notch ingredients for SW's black metal stew. And, let's not forget the weird, primitive, yet tastefully employed keyboards which surface now and again to lend an eerie melody...as you can imagine, they are NOT in the forefront. I will say that the songs themselves are not as "catchy" as on "Strength and Honour" or "Karelian Satanic Madness", but I think they are quite a bit better than on "Opferblut", but that is my opinion and I know it will vary with others.
The cover art is, at first, kind've goofy looking, but upon further inspection reveals an excellent pen-and-ink technique, and after a while you realize it is really great. There are some pithy photos within, as well as lyrics. My version was the first release of Werewolf Records, and is designated "Evil-One" (kind've cool and/or amusing). This is also---supposedly only on first printings---a "gold disc" (the disc itself is gold plastic). Who know what future pressings will be like?
The production on here does set it vaguely apart from other SW releases, though it will sound familiar to longtime black metal enthusiasts; it has a real demo-sounding quality to it, complete with tape-hiss. As I said before, I'm certain it was calculated to sound exactly like this, and really achieves a dark wave of nocturnal gloom...again, very much in the flavour of Bathory's "The Return", although we all know that one was unintentional! Rest assured, you are able to hear everything very well, but almost as if listening through a swarm of poisonous insects. Despite all these decriptors, it is not one of those "tinny" sounding albums, there is a thickness seething below the buzzing. It is enigmatically sharp yet murky. This isn't a heavy album you can really crank on your stereo, more like something to listen to right before sunrise, something you use to keep it darker for just a bit longer. But do try to play it loud, especially if you have neighbours who scare easily! This is not for casual black metal listeners who no doubt prefer the pristine productions of late-period Emperor or Dark Funeral, this is for those who pine for the sometimes inadvertent masterpieces of dark art from the olden times. Yes, it is done purposely. Yes, it is nothing new. But, YES, it is really cool! This will in no way convert the naysayers who insist on bashing SW as worthless and even trendy, but it will greatly satisfy their existing fans as well as anyone who wants to pick up a modern example of how things used to be. Hey, if you like the sound and the songs, what does it matter if Satanic Warmaster are "originators" or not?
It's been five years since the Satanic Tyrant Werwolf last tore our faces off with a Satanic Warmaster full-length, that being the Carelian Satanist Madness: harsh, scrappy, and ultimately quite memorable. However, the man has kept himself occupied with another project, the heavy metal Armour, and a slew of EPs, splits and compilations from this project have likewise surfaced in the interim, including raw mixes of this very effort that were part of the mouthful acronym W.A.T.W.T.C.O.T.B.W.O.A.A. compilation released earlier this year. So now that the inimical Nazgul is back home in his primary creative outlet, were the results worth waiting for?
Your mileage will vary based on just how willing you are to take another pestilent voyage through the past, as Satanic Warmaster continues to churn out nothing but the purist brand of dense, hostile black metal, low on production values but high on despotic mayhem. Of course, Mayhem is a true point of reference here, with some Darkthrone and Hellhammer for good measure, and Nazgul seems the perfect one man tribute to these fundamental bands, performing all instruments himself. The lyrics still fancy the classical folklore and occult horror, with songs here like "Satan's Werewolf", "Bestial Darkness" and "Vampires", and the man's vocals are still as sadistic as all fuck.
The most striking characteristic of Nachzerer is the very compact, dark production. The rhythm guitars and bass seem to hover over the listener like a damp canopy of lycanthrope hides while the drums storm just below the surface, breaking through during fills and rides upon the crash. The momentum of a "Warmaster Returns" or "Satan's Werewolf" is difficult to deny, but I feel that the material truly sinks its teeth into my neck when he slows down to the morbid fare that is "Rotting Raven's Blood" or the flowing, submerged melodic power of "One Shining Star." The outro "Utug-Hul" is also quite nice, a ritual/medieval ambient piece with Nazgul's narrative blasphemy. In fact, this closing piece is potent enough that I'd love to hear him do an entire album in this mold, if he can ever find the time. Another track worth mentioning is the despotic "Bestial Darkness", which opens with crushing chords and organs before speeding off into dire vitriol.
Those who will appreciate Nachzehrer probably already know who they are: the legions of grim clad purists who don't give a flying fuck for innovation in black metal, and Satanic Warmaster once again delivers on that front. The riffs here are not perfect, but the overall hostility of the album's atmosphere travels miles on all four bloodied paws to compensate, and the lyrics are fairly engaging despite the redundant subject matter. Don't be fooled, there is enough dynamic balance on this record to provide a number of listens. The Satanic Tyrant is no fool, and he's no one-trick pony. He's written a decent fourth effort here, and while it by no means dethrones a Carelian Satanist Madness or Opferblut, it will still hunt you through the cursed midnight woods and nip at your ankles through the chills and fog.