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Beyond a decade of deliberations - 65%

autothrall, September 2nd, 2011

Having developed into what some would consider the 'poor man's' Rotting Christ or Varathron, Nergal had themselves a minor cult effort in their full-length debut The Wizard of Nerath. Sure, it left much to be desired in the long run, but clearly it was a statement of competence and potential. Alas, its qualities were not capitalized upon, and the band fell into torpor for more than a decade before the decision to summon once again their dark and ancient concerns into a fresh vortex of ritual pantomime. Absinthos still sounds a bit like a band standing in the considerable shadow of Rotting Christ, who had written its like several times with superior results, but I'd not say that this was an album to write off entirely: it knows its business, and provides a passable haunting.

With studio possibilities having come a long way in the ensuing decade, it would be no shock that Absinthos sounds far more polished than its predecessor. As clean as a golden apple, consistently sound in its variation and songwriting choices. The title track itself opens the proceedings with a wall of synthesizer, martial horns swelling up alongside manly narrative passages, often quite laughable but nonetheless entertaining. But then comes the strident, tremolo riff driven black metal content ("The Tearful Eyes of the Countess") kissed with sweetness of subtle synthesizers, solid and resonant rasping which helps rend aside the temporal boundaries into which these Greeks are reaching. They are clean in their transitions, and half-cracked at pulling off a riff or two, but I found that as the album grew faster and more ferocious ("Scream in the Forest" or "Live the Death"), it seemed to perk up, if only because there is more energy being discharged than the middling, medium paced compositions.

A lot of melodic mute-streams, which is one of the primary reasons I'm so reminded of the whole Rotting Christ approach (Thy Mighty Contract through their modern material). The only difference is that Nergal just don't build such entrancing patterns with their guitars, and thus the material feels less passionate and emotional. A song like "Deliverance by the Tyranny of Life" has all the components of what makes the Greek from appealing, but once I'm finished listening to it I simply can't evoke the desire to replay it. The dark chugging, heavily synthesized "Dark Prevalence" constructs a cheesy but compelling pomp, with some kinder piano passages strewn about, but even here, at the album's grandest deviation, the notes just aren't fixed into patterns that fondle the imagination. Nergal succeeds here in ridding themselves of a decade of empty, open air, but ultimately Absinthos is not so entertaining as their debut, and really not valuable unless one is seeking further examples of the style which reached its peak upon Thy Mighty Contract, The Wizard of Nerath, His Majesty at the Swamp and Eosforos. An honest try, but not enough to echo through the athenaeums of antiquity.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

A Noteworthy Reunion - 85%

CannibalCorpse, January 27th, 2007

I just recently heard that Nergal had reunited. It was pleasant news since I enjoyed their debut album "The Wizard of Nerath" to some extent and I was interested in what they archived in their 11 year break.

They achieved exactly what I was hoping for - they had nice ideas going on their debut, but often failed to keep them on the foreground, due to shitty vocal work and lack of memorable riffs.

"Absinthos" is still as Greek as it's predecessor, but this time around, the amount of memorable riffs is much higher. So is the album's speed - lots of tremolo picked passages, only seldom interrupted by awesome slower, palm-muted riffs (Deliverance by the Tyranny of Life). Another huge improvement are Horrendous Infernal Graves vocals, he belts out great shrieks and growls in a fierce manner and they surely complement the music well.

Some classical instruments are used here and there (I must say it again - the awesome passage in "Deliverance by the Tyranny of Life") to full effect. The piano parts in the last song "Dark Prevalence" are very well played, as are the great choirs in the background. The production does help those instruments a lot since it's quite clear, while it doesn't lack the aggressive edge the guitars need.

My only complaint here is the drum-machine. It is varied and does some excellent stuff for a machine, but sometimes it sounds horribly fake and sadly disturbs the focus of the listener once in a while. At times though, the drums sound too human for a machine, so I'm a bit confused. Just shoddily produced sterile drums? I have no idea. This is not a major complaint though and my excitement about this album never went away.

Overall though, "Absinthos" is a pleasant surprise and will hopefully be heard by many people. Fans of Greek black metal should definitely pick this one up, as it contains lots of classic riffage and a few bits of well-done experimentation. I just wish the album was longer than it's mere 31 minutes.

Pick this one up, especially if you were disappointed by Nergal's debut.