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A considerable improvement on all fronts - 70%

kapitankraut, October 26th, 2007

Slartibartfass' second release, "Nebelheim" is a real improvement over their first one. While not an essential entry in the viking/pagan/folk metal canon, it is nonetheless a thoroughly enjoyable listen for fans of the style.

The headline news here is that the album is roughly twice as long as the 25-minute "Nordwind", which can only be a good thing, particularly when this length is brought about by some deliberately epic-length pieces (the shortest song here is more than 4 minutes long, the longest is over 12 minutes long), rather than simply more short tracks. This gives the band time to stretch out and demonstrate the abilities which "Nordwind" had hinted at but never quite allowed to shine. Most notably, instead of throwing unusual instruments into the mix to demonstrate that they can play a mouth-harp - which is used very well indeed on "Erdmacht" - the band is prepared to integrate these sounds into the overall package. The long instrumental passages feature more traditional instruments, too, which prevents them from sounding as gimmicky as the earlier album.

The other criticism I'd made of "Nordwind" was that the vocals were incoherent. On "Nebelheim", this is no longer the case. They're as harsh as they should be, and a lyric sheet never goes to waste, but they don't sound as self-parodic as they did last time round. If I had to name a weakness of the album, it would still be the vocals, but clearly there's a huge improvement here, and I'm convinced that the band is going to sound better with more experience as well.

The feel of this album is much improved, as I've said throughout. "Rache der Kobolde", for example, has some very impressive riffs throughout (as well as a wonderfully deep voice appearing on the chorus), and "St Cuthbert" is also a real standout. The overall impression is of a band really taking a good shot at the sound they want. It's not particularly original and there are many bands out there doing precisely the same thing and much better into the bargain, but if that's the major criticism that can be made here, it suggests that "Nebelheim" is worthy of a wider audience.