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Sheer energy, enthusiasm and ambition abound here - 90%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, May 22nd, 2018

Having heard this album a few times now, and being wowed by its energy, intensity and ambition, I really am puzzled that, at the time of this review, Nahtrunar were still languishing in the Orphans' Corner of MA even though they had three albums and two demo tapes out and were signed up to a label. The music on "Mysterium Tremendum", their third album, definitely isn't to blame and a couple of reviews I saw of their first album were positive as well. Being Austrian surely would be an advantage to them in the German-speaking BM scene where they would score some popularity points - or so you'd think. Or maybe Nahtrunar have just been plain unlucky that so far no-one here to date has been able to review any of their recordings.

Well if the MA universe really hasn't heard Nahtrunar's work before, it had better be prepared because "Mysterium Tremendum" plays like it could be the band's breakthrough album that'll gain loads of attention not only from new fans but bigger labels as well. The music is structured in a way that builds up from straight-up minimal melodic BM reminiscent of 1990s Norwegian second-generation BM (with influences from minimal Finnish old school melodic BM as well) to slower, more considered (though still fast) music that culminates in an epic monumental fusion of the foregoing styles, ambient wash and prog-rock verging on psychedelia.

The first couple of songs lay out the band's basic minimal style: tremolo guitars going full-tilt over whippy percussion at lightning speeds, all anchored by sharp-edged solid riffs that are all pop-friendly and deserve individual attention in their own songs. But because these are all densely packed in just two songs, the result is these tracks have little individual identity and could pass as variations on one theme. The next pair of BM-oriented songs (tracks 4 and 5) are a bit slower, allowing the riffs and melodies to become more prominent and thus define the tracks.

The real stand-outs are the two instrumental pieces and the 12-minute epic closing track, and these showcase what Nahtrunar really could achieve on future recordings. The first instrumental piece is an all-acoustic work with a distinctive sound and atmosphere suggestive of mediaeval music: sharp, raw and very plaintive. The second instrumental work is a synth-based exercise in ghostly atmospheric wash and space-ambient experimentation: it's equally dark, brooding and melancholy. The last track is worth sitting through the rest of the album to hear: in spite of its length, it's a powerful composition of soaring keyboards and fast-flowing Finnish-sounding BM aggression.

At the risk of sounding nit-picky I have to say the first couple of tracks are trying to fit far too much in and might put off listeners deceived into thinking the rest of the album will be much the same. Nahtrunar do take a risk in starting small and basic and building up into something majestic and monumental really late in the album. The harsh BM singing is not that great either, it's a bit indecipherable although the vocals do have very intense emotion, something that's rare in a lot of BM-style singing.

I'm prepared though to stick my neck out and say this album could be one of the top BM albums for 2018 for its enthusiasm and passion, and the ambition (calculated though it might be) behind it.