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Mustan Aurignon Riitti - 80%

jimstayahead1, May 29th, 2012

Mustan... starts with a short opener called Blinding Fog, which is used to set the scene for the incoming black metal onslaught. The guitar plays a melody that could be used to shepherd ancient troops to battle, all backed up by a tambourine that keeps the beat, ending with the sound of rain, thunder and lightning. The second song is the first long player on the album, at just over 7 minutes. Path Of The White Wolves is where Nattfog start to flex their muscles. The driving guitar riffs are backed up by a strangely up-beat rhythm thanks to vocalist/drummer Vulcan Sacrilege. He also provides those raspy black metal vocals that add that evil bite to Nattfog's music. It's a mid paced song, with Nattfog not trying to out run anyone in the speed stakes.

The initial sound on this record is bigger than you'd expect from a duo, especially from the guitar. The production is clear and more modern, losing some of the old-school leanings favoured by many of their peers. That being said, it does still feel dirty and evil, which is testament to it's creators. Third song Reaching To The Stars is played out at much the same pace, and sees Nattfog throwing some different dynamic elements into the song. Subtle pace changes and melodic instrumental passages bring the song to life. There is still that hypnotic sense in there as well though, as if the duo are trying to lure the listener into a daze, in which to devour their souls.

Mustan... lasts just over 41 minutes, and considering it's made up of seven tracks, that's pretty epic. With lyrical themes of their Nordic homeland and the journey into the afterlife, from the earth to the stars shows that Nattfog want to take the listener on a journey through their mythological past and with second half of the album being in Finnish, they are firmly holding onto their heritage and roots.

They are able to weave some subtle, folky melodies into their music, like in fourth song Mieleni Mustissa Merissä. In parts this reminds me of the way Dark Tranquillity incorporate melody into their music, and are able to create a bigger, more engaging sound as a result. Nattfog aren't pandering to the genre conventions either. This record is a very listenable experience, due to the quality of their music and vision, and I know the more cvlt amongst you will baulk at that statement, but it's meant to be a compliment in terms of their creativity and integrity as an individual entity, and not just being content as copyists.

As the record progresses into it's final two battle hymns, it's hard not to faults with it. Nattfog do bring that occult, evil influence to the fore during the penultimate song, to remind you of what they are. A surprise awaits you at the start of album closer Kaksitoista Askelta Luvattuun Valtakuntaan. The sound of traditional folk instruments ring out and add a sense of warmth to the record. Sometimes, this type of influence can sound contrived and gimmick, but not here, as it's again a reminder of Nattfog's Nordic roots. The traditional horn makes up the main element of this final instrumental track and leaves subtly leads the listener away from the battle field they have just negotiated.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Nattfog, but having just witnessed a very measured and mature debut album, I'm converted. It's a debut record filled with ambiance and atmosphere. It's played with thought and skill and it will no doubt bring Nattfog, squinting, out of the underground.