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Germanic Geniuses. - 90%

Perplexed_Sjel, July 13th, 2009

For so long, I have neglected Nagelfar thinking they were some sort of poor man’s Nargaroth, not that I even like Nargaroth that much - they’re truly a hit-or-miss band with a few mediocre records alongside one or two top notch classics . I truly have no idea how I came to this nonsensical conclusion, but it must have been an opinion formed in my early days of being a black metal fan, when I was as fussy as could be in terms of what I listened to and even what I liked. I once preferred the minimalist approach that was pioneered by the classic bands, on the classic records like ‘Transilvanian Hunger’, which I urgently need to listen to again, and probably re-review given my more mature stance on black metal classics these days. However, as I began to review more and, in time, become better at reviewing, I noticed that my tastes were altering significantly and beginning to lean towards an experimental faction of metal, which contradicted my first thoughts on this enigmatic genre that often requires a lot of use of a particular virtue named patience. I fear the conclusions I come to - in regards to Darkthrone’s ‘Transilvanian Hunger’, as well as the rest of their early career - will not be as positive as they once were and bands like Nagelfar are the reason for this discontentment.

It is, of course, my own idiotic fault for not practising what I preach and that is that assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups. We all know this, I know this, so why does my impetuous nature distract me from listening to bands merely because I assume something, that usually isn’t true, about them? I have no idea. I cannot begin to fathom my own idiocy, so I don’t expect anyone else to be able to do so. I should know by now that if a band is signed to Ván, then the chances are that they’re Germanic geniuses, intent on tearing black metal a new arsehole with their creative minds. The Ruins of Beverast are probably the biggest example of talent on the books at Ván, one of the more established record labels in black metal. Like other labels, such as Profound Lore, Ván have a knack for turning capable minds into capable musicians. The bands they have signed in the past, and the one’s presently on their books are often terrific, inspiring creations that deserve an awful lot of credit for their portrayal of black metal which sees many minimalist bands, and their records, gain notoriety for boosting the appeal of black metal.

Whilst I accept that bands like Darkthrone played a major role in giving the genre a global appeal, I also recognise the fact that for black metal to exist, it needs to go through an evolutionary period and towards the late 1990’s, with efforts like ‘Hünengrab im Herbst’, the scene duly received its rights to start the makeover process that has seen bands like Nagelfar sweep in with an experimental touch that has left fans like me screaming for more. Thankfully, before the band decided to part from the scene, they had left us with three notable full-length efforts to contend with and I’m fixed to start making my way through them, beginning with this majestically mesmerising piece, ‘Hünengrab im Herbst’ which translates to ‘Dolmen in Autumn’. This nature inspired title seems more apt to me now, as I’m not fluent in German by any means. Before bands like Drudkh came along and stole the show, Nagelfar were solemnly subjecting their smaller fan base to classic after classic of inspirational Pagan themed black metal that swept up a bunch of avant-gardé influenced and threw them together into a violent, but beautiful result.

As songs like the self-titled effort will indicate, the band are exceptional musicians. The song structures have specific methods of dealing with certain emotions and the band, as a whole, are expertly drawn together in exquisite beauty. I’m unsure whether the band uses the addition of keyboards, or whether the symphonies that make up a lot of the ground work are due to programming, or even regular old synths, but it doesn’t seem to matter regardless as the band are as epic as epic can be and this takes the aesthetic nature of instrumentation that can often lead to bands sounding hollow, or synthetic. The elements of this project, whether it be bass, or guitars meshes together like the colours of autumn, forming beautiful patterns in the sky and across the floor. The keyboards, or whatever they might be, even provide sparse, but superb piano passages which heighten the sense of emotion that is poured into this dynamic record.

The mastermind that is Alexander von Meilenwald provides his services on drums and, to no real surprise, he is an exceptional drummer with an abundance of talent that lies in creating not only double bass blasts to high standards, but also subtle grooves and a lot of creativity in the drums, shown on songs like ‘Srontgorrth (Das dritte Kapitel)’ with its rolling bass, tight cymbal and snare work, and fantastic capabilities when it comes to introducing songs. Alongside the bass, which is audible despite what the previous reviewer says, and the guitars, the drumming of Alexander ties in all other elements together, creating a field around the instrumentation, keeping the other instruments locked up within a huge atmospheric wall of noise. Considering his ability to be able to provide grooves and whatnot, his style can accommodate any style that the other elements of the instrumentation wish to enforce upon us. There are folk aspects of this record, as shown in the lyrical themes of nature and seasons, but also in the instrumentation which oozes a certain class. The nature inspired theme tends to come out more in the synths, which are consistently good and deliver on a range of levels that accommodate all sorts of black metal fans.

Whether you’re into aggressive and fast black metal, or majestic black metal, this record should suit all needs. The vocals, which consist of both rasps and clean chanted vocals (as shown on songs like (Srontgorrth (Das dritte Kapitel)’) are brilliant and, once again, also accommodate a huge variety of fans. Forget Summoning, this is epic black metal, with a majestic vibe at its utter best. Nagelfar aren’t suited to fans of repetitious black metal, I’m afraid. Each song tends to consist of a number of leads, not just one distorted riff, over and over again. The incredible and folk themed ‘Der Flug des Raben (Ein Jammerschrei in traurig' Nächten)’ is a terrific example of this because, despite its length, it never ceases to amaze me and not once does it bore me, or grate on my nerves. In fact, I’ve noticed a pattern with this record that suggests the songs get better as they progress towards the climatic end, just like on ‘Der Flug des Raben (Ein Jammerschrei in traurig' Nächten)’ which consists of a divine guitar lead towards the end, an upbeat piano passage and, as always, staggering percussion. An unbelievable ride, from beginning to end.