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Now with variation and six-string sorcery - 70%

autothrall, July 13th, 2011

The Wizard of Nerath represents a huge departure from the 'poor man's Necromantia' sound of Nergal's De Mysteris Vermiis EP two years prior. No longer is the distorted bass the central focus, but guitars have been added for a more conventional approach to the genre. There are also some Burzum-like, tortured screams here, especially in the opening track "Timeless Father", which I was not expecting. But otherwise, this is a much closer approximation of the Greek tradition that we know from bands like Varathron and Rotting Christ, with only subtle differentials that stand it on its two feet among the rest of the hopefuls. And despite a few minimal flaws, like the lack of strong guitar riffs throughout, The Wizard of Nerath stands as the band's crowning career achievement, even if that headpiece is not hardly glittering with jewels...

My favorite component of the album is likely the synthesizer work, which truly reflects that mix of martial and ritual novelty that could only come out of the 90s. "Ljus morker" is perhaps the strongest piece on the album, a pompous march purely of keyboards and harsh, shouted vocals that proves their most unnerving composition to its day. Then there's the finale "Sparagmos", a seven minute swell of epic ambient that hearkens to days of the ancients, of barbarism, and of ominous portents. Elsewhere, the synths are simply adhered to provide a glorious circus amidst the driving, heavily fuzzed out guitar tone, like the horn-ish strikes in "My Soul, Blood, Will Be Dripping" or "The Dream of the Dragon", which plays out a lot like what Sweden's Therion were crafting at the time on their masterpiece Lepaca Kliffoth. The vocals are suitably harsh throughout the album, and I actually love the guitar tone, but I found that most of the riffs were individually not that impressive, so they serve only as a fragment of the atmosphere and not a dominating force.

The actual construction of the guitars creates a stopgap between the legendary Celtic Frost and fellow Greeks Rotting Christ, for Nergal writes a lot of fell majesty and thundering epic aesthetics that dwell in both the fantastic and mythological. The Wizard of Nerath often feels like a bastard child of To Mega Therion and Thy Mighty Contract, though the songs are neither as distinct or memorable as what you'd hear on those classics. Still, like Thou Art Lord's Eosforos or Medieval Demon's Demonolatria, there is a particular charm at play that manages to lend the material a cult efficiency. This is not the first album I'd reach for when seeking a traditional Greek black fix, but if you're into most of the other bands I've named here, then it's possible you would derive some satisfaction from this. The bolstered level of variation and the fuzzy weight of the riffing exceeds the 1993 EP in quality, but only mildly. Alas, the band would simply not take off with this, and it would be the last they were heard of for over a decade...

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

So Greek sounding it sweats melitzanosalata - 57%

Byrgan, June 15th, 2009

'Step right up folks! Ladies and germs, we've got a show to put on and not much time to do so. Today's presentation is going to horrify, mortify and possibly...ghastamafy. The leader of this Hellenic bunch is as much a screamer as he is a blaspheemer, one who peaks with shrieks. These devils pack an epic punch, coming from long ago. You might ask yourself: "Which came first, the music or the screams?" Was this haunted group of misfits performing music before they laid the screams to the foundation, or were the screams the cement and the music the building? Nah, don't ask yourself that, it might come to the "chicken and the rooster" debate...anyway, folks, listen up and listen loud because Nergal are here to bring you some tunes from an ancient land uh...Atlanta...Atlantis, that was buried till now.'

The music here sounds young and adventurous, ready to conquer the world with burning rage and unadulterated experimentation. Nergal piece together an album that uses outworldly effects to portray an epic journey on some dust blown over and forgotten road in Greek landscapes. This is varying-speed black metal in execution with a decent amount of keyboards adding horns or other majestical sounds that can play as much a part as the rest of the regular round-up of instruments.

The music on 'The Wizard of Nerath' can come off as unrefined at points. Track by track, it can switch itself up with differing combos among their darker song writing, but not always seating itself properly; sometimes a little awkwardly I might add. Some problems that surface are either one portion might be repeated far too often within a particular song, or have the keyboards come in to intrude when they should have sat down as a bench warmer. Though this isn't a strict black-and-white cut up, with minor glitches showing up here and there, but still potentially disabilitating the motherboard in the process. Definitely a stand out feature here is the vocals. And when I say this I'm being serious, his vocals at points sound like the 'afterwards' of stubbing your bare, uncovered toe and possibly your nail getting ripped off in the process. Like that time when you were supposed to put the carpenter's staple into the frame instead of your hand; clearly not a laughing matter. Or that other non-funny Tabasco sauce and eyeballs moment. He actually says at points 'ow' in utterly painful vocal-peaking regard. Making someone in an adjoining room run to your aid when loudly listening to this, and I can imagine when he recorded these tortured, wolf-howling vocals as well.

The guitars use a thinner sounding trebly tone with a lot of tremolo riffing and not a lot that's completely out of the ordinary for a 90's black metal style. There are some techniques that he uses for comparison, like a brand which some of the earlier Norwegian bands such as Burzum used where it can be heavily distorted but come off as simplistic in a rock type of way when using a medium pace during a few sections. There are some decent simplistic riffs lanking about in their usual slinky-like quality. Though typically repeated in abundance when they have something good going, at times stretching their usefulness anotherwards. It is an album which I think could have kept its original integrity, but should have had an outside party to organize or edit this after it was said and done. Because some sections such as abrupt keyboard hits, keyboard sections that seemed forced to fit overtop of an already written guitar section, and even some of the vocals can be out of place in a way. Like bits and pieces were written at different times and when listening to the final product it doesn't always come together. For instance, the vocals might take the lead overtop of more structured music and shriek at some opportune moments, but then there are parts where they are just placed anywhere, and definitely feel like it.

There are two full tracks included that are orchestrated. The first in the set excludes the normal guitar, bass and drums, instead having layered strings, and also abstract keyboard sounds and big miscellaneous keyboard tom drum hits, with the lead vocalist and another echoing raspier vocalist doing a sort of narration. This track feels like a two minute work-up dragged and stretched into nearly six minutes. And the overtop simulated strings during the vocal sections can come across as kind of haphazard at points and quite possibly improvised. Though there's nothing wrong with improvisation, but again it can make the song definitely feel like it was just put together with its randomness. The final track uses more straight forward rising and falling strings with such effects as barely perceptible wind. The visual is of a nomad traveler stepping through foot-sinking sand dunes with his face filled with rigid determination for the thoughts ahead.

This was paralleled with some of the mid-90's Scandinavian material that was being produced, and a side that might resemble aspects of bands in their own country of Greece at the time such as Necromantia with some longer, 'experiencing' music and dedicated keyboard sections. Along with the underlying melody that bands such as Rotting Christ and Varathron were divulging into. A likening sound can be heard from the material by Agatus like their 'Dawn of Martyrdom' album, but not coming off as structured or coming together to take advantage of a section like them for comparison. Though the bass here on 'The Wizard of Nerath' is heard decently loud at times, and on a few parts adding bass lines that might outflank a basic guitar riff. This includes a drum machine or electronic drums here, which sounds too precise to be an acoustic set but still decently programmed with lots of fills, and the cymbals also have that shortened ring that is a tell tale sign. Actually both the drums and bass seem louder than the guitars. And when using them the double bass pedals oddly become the loudest instrument on some of the songs; I guess it was better than not having them or being cut out.

On listening to Nergal's full length, it seems like they wanted to tackle a lot and were overall just plain falling short of their initial game plans. This does have its moments scattered throughout, some peaking adventurous parts actually work for them; though they're either here or there. Yet, their epic journey was an arduous and trying one. They came out alive, but didn't seem to be entirely on top of things when trekking around into unknown territories with heavy swords and unaccustomed magical powers. And in the end it would be hard to come out and tell a welcoming story, unless you decide for the sake of kindness to exaggerate their tale here.

The Wizard of Nerath - 68%

CannibalCorpse, May 11th, 2006

Nergal is a band which is rarely heard of nowadays, but they definitely had some kind of historical importance in the mid-nineties.

Nergal is a band somewhat similar to old Rotting Christ and their countrymates Varathron. There surely is a reason why these two are still around and still well known in black metal circles, but Nergal's only full length album "The Wizard of Nerath" is still nicely done Greek BM.

One of Nergal's shortcomings is the vocal work. There are rarely any words decipherable and most of the time it sounds like Varg on his early Burzum efforts, just significantly weaker, so they can become pretty annoying after a few songs. There's little to no variation, which does not help either.

Another slight lowpoint is the guitarwork. They have great, minimalist keys, creating the typical Greek atmosphere but the guitars don't complement the keyboard lines, they often work against them, instead of enhancing the sound. Listen to Varathron's "His Majesty at the Swamp" and you'll hear how it's done right.

All the complaints aside, it's still a good album. One of the strong points is the great use of acoustic guitar, which is not so common in the style. It keeps the songs from sounding boring and overlong, especially since the distorted riffs wouldn't be strong enough to back the length of the songs up.

The drumming is also fairly good, especially for a drum-machine(as far as I know, it is a machine), it's got a great sound for a machine and you'll have a hard time with hearing a difference between a human drummer and a computer.

Overall, this is a good album. Not a masterpiece by any means, but a good slab of oldschool greek black metal, only brought down by a slight lack of identity and not enough good riffs.

If you are a fan of the scene, check out "The Wizard of Nerath".