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A Highly Undervalued Masterpiece - 93%

S_Stormhammer, April 16th, 2012

It took me awhile to appreciate this album, truth be told. After Jahreszeiten, I expected Ash to continue in that direction, specifically with how he constructed the song Herbst. But this is different, and not a beginner's album for the black metal enthusiast. With only 3 tracks actually pertaining to black metal and the rest ambient, at first I felt betrayed by Nargaroth. I would insomuch go out of my way to flame his act on the airwaves. However, after much time spent away, I picked the album back up and gave it another try, and this time got a completely different feeling from the first time I listened to it.

This isn't even really a black metal album for Ash, but rather an experimental album with black metal influences. It starts out with these beautiful, sweeping violin interludes that, if expecting raw, unadulterated black metal hate, will leave you sorely disappointed. But all in all, a good intro for how he sets up the rest of the album. The next track is black metal, and nicely done too. It has various keys strategically placed to accent the guitars and Ash's vocals are raw and full of power, rather in the vein of classic Burzum, but with its own flair and style.

The next several tracks took me awhile to understand, though looking on them now I can appreciate and understand the level of detail they have. Again, like I said, this is not a beginner's album, specifically during Journey Through My Cosmic Cells [The Negation of God]. When I first heard it, I instantly pressed the ff button to see what else this album had in store for me. It's almost like trance/ritual music, but not bad. It is definitely worth listening to if you're trying to unwind, as most ambient music is.

The next two tracks are beautiful and breathtaking. A Whisper Underneath the Bark of Old Trees is so full of emotion that when I encountered it this second time, it almost brought me to tears with how stunning and sorrowful it sounded. Raw distortion mixed with a beautifully done riff makes for the perfect mix of German black metal, and Nargaroth nailed it. Even more so with his next track, which is the title of the album.

All in all, this album is not to be taken lightly. It has both good elements and bad, but in my opinion the good completely outweighs and even shatters the bad. I look on in interest for future Nargaroth releases, especially if Ash continues down this path with his contributions to black metal and even more of his dark ambient/trance releases.

A stroke of celestial genius - 84%

Memnarch, April 1st, 2012

Anyone even remotely into black metal will have come across Nargaroth at some point on their travels. Kanwulf’s stories and antics in the past are so infamous these days it’s easy to see why they’re a hugely polarizing band. For a guy whose head is lodged permanently up his own arse, surprisingly he still has a canny knack for creating some fantastic music. “Jahrezeiten” was a somewhat return to form after the rather mundane previous two efforts. But let’s face it, he’ll never make another “Herbstleyd”, that was an almost genre defining release, and Kanwulf has said as much himself.

While “Spectral Visions of a Mental Warfare” is an exceptionally good release, their best in many years in fact, it’s sure to divide fans right across the spectrum. Why? Because this is very, very different to anything Nargaroth have done before. Basically anyone that’s looking for a straight up black metal album will be coming away very disappointed, for “Spectral...” is essentially a bizarre experiment comprised of one small part classic Nargaroth consumed by a wave dreamy ambience fuelled by what almost appears to be the electronic waves of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis of all people. Not your everyday black metal album then eh? Of course this will just further stoke the fires of Kanwulf’s critics, but if you take this not as a black metal album, but as an ambient piece in general, you’ll maybe begin to fully appreciate its majesty.

The three ‘Metal’ tracks present here would be loosely tied into the ‘depressive-suicidal’ vein of black metal for want of a comparison but the guitar plays a distinctly reserved role anyway. Take ‘An Indifferent Cold in the Womb of Eve’, it appears to drift around dejectedly beneath the sea of synths and electronics, playing an effective role in creating an atmosphere of suspended desolation. Whether it’s the sub-oceanic minimal electronic journey of ‘Diving Among the Daughters of the Sea’ or the terrifying “A Whisper Underneath the Bark of Old trees” it’s hard to escape that feeling that we are but a an insignificant fleck of corrupt light in something altogether vast and complex beyond our own comprehension.

These astral, ambient passages are just so fucking effective, and none more remarkable than in the duo of ‘Journey Through My Cosmic Cells – The Negation of God’ and the aforementioned ‘A Whisper...’, the former a pure electronic track that is so utterly chilled out, relaxing and arcane; a trip into an abyssal celestial void, drugged by repeating electronic pulses of the synthesizer. It could easily have walked right out of the eighties, probably just why I love it so much. ‘A Whisper...’ is arguably one of the greatest tracks Kanwulf has ever penned, and it’s a pity the rest of the album isn’t quite up to this standard, as some of it does have the tendency to drag a touch. It’s the most ‘black metal’ track on the album and it sounds suspiciously like he might just have been listening to Nychts and Mortualia's latest collaboration before writing this one. The marriage between the melancholic guitar work, Kanwulf’s sparse vocals and the empyreal soundscapes created is mesmerizing. Take the guitar line that comes in around 4:40, it’s just soul destroying. I cannot stress enough how beautiful and crushing this track is, transporting the listener to another consciousness where all dreams and aspirations are destroyed.

Comparing it to the other notable ‘spacey’ black metal acts, it’s less suffocating and foreboding than Darkspace and not as harrowing as Nychts, it’s comparable to a star cloaked out of body trip through the endless forest of space, an attritional battle between sanity and insanity. Aesthetically it isn't black metal at all, the focal point isn’t centred on riffing and blasting drum work, it’s all about the atmosphere. It may be their least metal release yet, but it’s Kanwulf’s best composition in years. Nargaroth have never given two shits about what path they’re expected to take, we’re never going to get another “Herbstleyd”, but if he decides to stick to this route I’m more than happy.

Another Disapointment From Nargaroth - 40%

CrimsonFloyd, April 13th, 2011

Nargaroth can be such a frustrating band. In the late 90s, Nargaroth looked like a new and innovative band within the black metal scene. The debut, “Herbstleyd”, is a classic that integrates the stylistic qualities of Burzum and Graveland with Kanwulf’s own taste for epic melodies. However, it’s been a long, bumpy road since then. “Black Metal Ist Kreig” is extremely generic, offering nothing that hasn’t been done before and done better. The same goes for “Prosatanica Shooting Angels”. On the other hand, “Gelibte des Regens” is one of the most repetitive albums I have ever heard. It was like Kanwulf heard “Filosofem” and thought all he needed to do to create quality hypnotic black metal was repeat a riff for fifteen minutes straight. As anyone who has sat through the laborious title track can attest, it's not that easy.

Still, there is something that always makes me come back to Nargaroth. I think it’s the fact that I always say to myself “well, it has potential”. For example, “Gelibte des Regens” does have some very nice riffs, they just don’t need to be repeated for fifteen minutes. Thus when I heard some of the ambient samples from the new album “Spectral Visions of Mental Warfare,” I figured it was worth a listen. As usual, there are promising elements and as usual, the whole the work misses the mark.

The first thing one should know about “Spectral Visions…” is that there is really only about 25 minutes of black metal on an hour long album. The rest of music is dark ambient. Dark ambient can be great when done correctly. (In fact, Kanwulf produced an excellent piece of dark ambient on “Herbstleyd”). However, most of the ambient tracks are just awful. The opening piece “Odin's Weeping for Jördh” is the best of the bunch. It is lush, solemn and soulful. The main melody is quite beautiful and the ambient noises, though cliché (wolf, raven, and storm... the unholy trinity of black metal nature noises) create a powerful presence.

The rest of the ambient pieces split into two categories. The first are the pieces that sound like they come off some new-age bargain bin CD. Listening to “Diving Among the Daughters of the Sea”, I clike some hippy chick should be telling me about the psychic power of dolphins while realigning my chakras. Second, there are the pseudo-techno songs. These are long, repetitive electronica tracks that are too slow to dance to but too boring to just sit and listen to. No one needs to waste their time listening to Kanwulf’s FruityLoops experimentation.

On the other hand, the three black metal songs are good. Slow and solemn riffs are layered with lush keys and periodic screeches. If nothing else, Kanwulf deserves credit for having a good ear for a dramatic and moving melody. However, even here Kanwulf cannot let things be. The best riff of the entire album comes around the 4:30 mark of “A Whisper Underneath The Bark Of Old Trees”. It’s a sweeping, epic melody—expressing a controlled, reflective glory. But we don’t get to enjoy it. The entire three minute passage is overdubbed with audio of some German guy screaming, yelling and crying—in short, having a mental breakdown. Just what every amazing melody needs… a random overdub of a clip from a movie. The long, obnoxious clip ruins any potential the track has for repeat listening.

On the whole, “Spectral Visions of Mental Warfare” has its moments, but they are just too few and far between. It seems Kanwulf just cannot put together a good album without shooting himself in the foot.

(Originally written for http://listenwell-nocturnal.blogspot.com/)

Spectral Visions of Mental Warfare - 60%

Norfrisianblackmetal, April 7th, 2011

What the HELL was Ash thinking when he decided to record this album? Let's copy (steal?) some Burzum riffs, add some electro/dance and voila: Spectral Visions of Mental Warfare

The first song, 'Odin’s weeping for Jördh', sounds almost exactly like Burzum's 'Tomhet', where as 'An indifferent Cold in the Womb of Eve' immediately brings 'Rundtgåing Av Den Transcendentale Egenhetens Støtte/Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Säule Der Singularität ' into your mind, Ash doesn't even try to cover it up! The next song, 'Diving among the Daughters of the Sea', is another ambient piece, it sounds almost the same as 'An indifferent Cold...' and it's Burzum all-over again. Odin’s weeping for Jördh - Part II, surprise surprise, sounds like Burzum. Yeah, really. It's a bit more like Daudi Baldrs/Hlidskjalf this time, but still Burzum

Okay, next song: 'Journey through my Cosmic Cells (The Negation of God)'. It starts with electro, not bad, but Nargaroth isn't VNV Nation, is it? I personally don't mind this kind of influences, but be warned, it's like the freaky stuff on Mayhem's 'Grand Declaration of War', you love it, or you hate it. 'A Whisper underneath the Bark of old Trees' and 'Spectral Visions of Mental Warfare' are actually black metal, very slowly, nice, hypnotising songs. 'March of the Tyrants' is another electro song. I like it, but I fully understand those who don't.

This is not, understatement, what I expected after Jahreszeiten and I am really disappointed to hear electro influences on a Nargaroth album.