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Nargaroth - Jahreszeiten - 94%

Avestriel, September 27th, 2009

Fucking finally, am I right? This album was supposed to be released first thing in June or July, I forget, but after only a single was released and no news were heard about the destiny of this album, I completely forgot about it, until suddenly I received news that it had been released mid-September, so I immediately set to listen to it, and here we are, writing a review for it. So, what's to expect from this album? I tell you what: The best damn thing Ash previously known as Kanwulf has done since the Raslukas and Geliebte. Most likely this is even better than those.

Hell, the album starts with a spoken intro quite reminiscent of the Raslukas. Then, after that's done and gone, guess what happens? The song which bears the title Spring (in german obviously) starts, and what do you know! It's a fucking happy song! Holy shit! This song really captures the spirit of what Spring is meant to be, the renewal of life, love and all things good, which one would obviously assume has jackshit to do with black metal, but hey, Ash seamlessly summed up those extremely positive feelings and turned them into an exceptionally great black metal song. Holy crap! I'm sorry, I'm really excited about this, the riffing is just so jumpy and cheerful it makes me want to dance. Of course, and since the song is over ten minutes long (every song except the intro is, one of them being over 20 minutes long), there's enough room for the classical, dark and gloomy Nargaroth riffage, but that doesn't take the perfectly portrayed spirit of Spring away from this song.

And now I'll take a moment to mention something universal to all songs and that has gone through huge improvements: The drumming. You wanted boring, repetitive drumming stuck in either second or fifth gear? Well look somewhere else, because these drums are as varied as they come. Bass-snare mid-tempo rhythms? We've got 'em! Relentless blastbeats? Hell yeah, and then there's a seemingly neverending alternation of doublebass with irregular drumming patterns, some even extremely dance-y (see previous statement about wanting to dance), and the sound is excellent, the best sound I've heard from a Nargaroth album.

As anyone who doesn't live under a stone 24/7 would figure, Summer follows after Spring is done with it's cheerfulness, and the first thing to greet us is the previously unheard sound of... an extremely melodic and romantic intro complete with solos? WHOA! I need to move to Vietnam, it obviously does great things to musical inspiration. Man! This is borderline Power Metal! Ok, ok, don't get scared it's nothing like that but I'm so excited words spew out of my mouth (fingers) without control. Anyway this extremely melodic intro (for black metal anyway) stretches a few minutes before a proper black metal song starts to show its head. This time the song follows a 3/4 suite, which feels like a grim waltz in celebration of the warmth of summer, again, not very typical in black metal and yet so, so fitting for the black metal sound. The levels of sophistication within the melodies of this song are worthy of great raw-but-melodic bands like Taake and Peste Noire, just to mention a couple. Once you finish getting your Victorian clothes on and are about to join the dance, the song changes into the more regular 4/4 rhythm, which brings back the awesome grimness and melancholic glory of the trademark Nargaroth sound (what can I say? I too get melancholic during summers. Melancholic and sweaty, which if you ask me fits this song perfectly), all the while the bass... The bass?

It's only then when I notice the bass. Oh! How wonderful, I tell you. Finally some bass from Ash? And hey, it follows it's own melody! So. We're right in the middle of the song when the drumming changes to something akin to a classic rock band with extra love for double bass drums, while riffs keep doing what they know best, repetitive but addictive melodies which pretty much only change in pitch and not structure.

The song continues without many surprises aside from the wonderful, I'd say almost heroic and inspirational melodies and crazy drumming which keeps changing and changing.

Enter Autumn, the longest song on this album, clocking at 21:58 minutes, with a clean and pretty sad intro, which even though is something you don't hear ofter (especially in the last few years) from our friend Kanwulf, but it's kinda something to expect when the usual imagery for this season is of melancholic and lifeless landscapes. I can hear something that is in no way new to this band, which is samples of rain, but then I hear something that I'm pretty sure is a cello and I rest assured every song will have something new that will make me smile like an idiot in pleasant surprise. So this intro stretches for about two minutes, when the guitars and drums come to break the trance in which I was left. The cello goes on in the background, creating what is probably the most beautifully sad moment in the whole history of the band, I kid you not, this is like a soundtrack for a movie about sad people in a brown-leaved forest. This song is predominantly slow and low, with the cellos taking the central part of the music most of the time. It's at this moment that I think to myself maybe Kanwulf took not only the idea for this album from Vivaldi but may have taken some inspiration from his music. Not much though, but that cello is indeed a nice, classy detail. The clean guitars make sporadic reappearances all along the song, which helps to keep the melancholy at top force for as long as possible. This is definitely the saddest song on this album, being extremely slow at times, and becoming increasingly slow as the song reaches its half, which is when the more aggressive but still melancholic part of the song starts. Drums definitely have some great shining moments, from the deeply echoing toms to the crisp and playful cymbals, the drumming takes the cake most of the song. And then when you think you cannot be surprised again by this album, clean vocals! And very well done ones at that! Kanwulf has quite a nice singing voice, reeking of sadness and memories of times long gone, I'd say. Kinda reminds me of the better moments of Tilo Wolf (am I being racist by comparing all non-operatic german male singers to Tilo Wolf?). The song culminates with an atypical, almost rockish riff which is engulfed by the drums (especially the quite loud double bass) and finish with a sample of wind and some church bells, fabricating images of cemeteries and grief in my mind. Oh yes.

Finally, the song that everyone would be waiting to listen to if we all hadn't listened to it already, sort of, I'm talking about Winter, the soul of black metal and the grand finale of a thoroughly amazing album. This song has the most grim and evil riffing off the entire album, and how could this be any other way! This is fucking Vinter we're talking about here, this is fucking black metal. This song, and I hope my memory is not fucking with me because of my excitement, is the only one to feature blast beats (don't let that turn you off, after reading this whole thing you should be more than convinced that this is an exceptional album!) and to be honest, on one side it's the only song where they fit, and on the other side, it's the only song that needs them. The amazingly simple and yet overwhelmingly cold riff drones for quite a few minutes while blastbeats destroy everything in their path, creating the ultimate misanthropic black metal anthem, something Kanwulf could only dream of creating while he was working on that despicable piece of garbage also known as Black Metal Ist Krieg. He really nailed it now, at unimaginable levels. The tremolos, the powerchords, the short silences and sudden bursts, the ambiance, the coldness, the blackness, it's all here in a 16 minute long black metal epic musical poem. About a third of the song goes by with it's relentless black metal attack when we enter a mid-paced section, which includes a really nice, simple (yet not so simple) and elegant solo, which thankfully stretches for a few minutes before fading away into obscurity. The slowness is over as quick as it started, though, and we go to what could be called part three (or maybe four depending on how you see it) of the song. Mid-to-fast-paced drumming and a constant double bass keep the rhythm while riffs crisscross your ears, guided by Kanwulf's shrieks, which seem more emotional in this song than ever before. Of course the song could not exist without some samples from snowstorms and wolves. The initial riff makes an appearance near the end of the song, but this time with slow-paced, constantly varying drumming, until blastbeats and a parade of fucking fast doublebass drumming followed by more snowstorm sounds and what seems to be the continuation of the prelude (spoken part) end the song definitely, which gives it an excellent closure. And lo and behold! Before you can think "what the hell just happened!?" the album is over and you jizzed in your pants countless times (sorry for the mental image).

I almost forgot to mention that while it's obviously a conceptual album, and each song is a "chapter", each song is on itself divided in several "movements", which helps keep things interesting. And as I mentioned, each song has samples of something that is meant to be found on each season, Spring has birds chirping all happy and dandy, Summer has crickets and what I believe to be cicadas, Autumn has rain and wolves (well, the wolves are just an extra detail, I don't think wolves only howl during the Autumn) and Winter has the classic snowstorm sounds. And wolves. That's just lovely if you ask me. I can only wonder what the lyrics say, though.

So yeah, this album surprised me, excited me and made me happy in ways I would have never EVER expected from Nargaroth, I mean I think this is my longest review ever, and I've written reviews for albums I like much much more than this one, so let me get it all out so I can get going:

Holy fucking shit!!!

Thanks. But before I go, the downer: The only negative thing about this album is that it came to play a tad too late. This should have been the immediate follower to Rasluka I, instead of us having to wait five years and a bunch of mediocre releases to enjoy another giant masterpiece from German/Vietnamese maniac Kanw- er.. Ash. Can you say "instant classic"? By all means, CHECK THIS OUT NOW.

Originally written for the paper version of the Terror Cult Zine