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[inarticulate yelling] - 90%

LickMyOrangeBallsHalfling, January 9th, 2019

By 1995, black metal titans such as Mayhem, Burzum, and Dissection were making long, grandiose songs, trying to create deep, atmospheric sounds. So what road did a little Swedish band called Nifelheim take in the face of all this? They looked backwards, treading the path forged by '80s black metal pioneers like Bathory, Sarcofago, and Tormentor, as well as German thrash bands like Sodom, Kreator, and Destruction. Going by the example of their predecessors, Nifelheim honed their sound into a bludgeoning, no-frills chaotic attack.

This is ultimately an album that seems to pride itself on its simplicity. The guitar riffs tend to be frantic, almost punkish three chord thrashings, while the drums bash out drilling blast beats. Vocalist Pelle "Hellbutcher" Gustafsson shrieks like a rabid animal, making the lyrics completely indistinguishable, with the occasional exception of the title of the song being shouted during the chorus. And the band isn't shy about being a bit derivative, even of themselves! The chorus of "Storm of Satan's Fire" is the exact same as the chorus of "Satanic Sacrifice" (sensing a theme with the titles?) "Sodomizer" features a guitar lead swiped from "Black Curse." With any other band, this would seem lazy, but Nifelheim succeed in making it part of their charm.

Guitars on this record were contributed by Jon Nodtveidt and John Zwetsloot of Dissection, and while this album is certainly less intricate than any given Dissection album, they still get a chance to flex their guitar muscle, as it is the viciously simple riffs that form the backbone of the album, and are the primary focus. The riffs are front and center in the mix, and the guitar tone is sharp and biting, adding to the abrasive sound that the band aims for. The sense of melody that the guitarists demonstrated in Dissection is present here, as they layer dissonant single-note melodies over the top of their frantic riffing, that are both catchy and eerie at the same time. The guitar solos tend to be brief and chaotic, full of whammy dives and Slayer-esque shredding.

And in the midst of all the aggression, there are some moments that are just downright catchy and irresistible. The intro riff to "Satanic Sacrifice," sounding like a slightly sped up Candlemass riff, won't leave your head for days after listening. The chorus riff to "Sodomizer" is both driving and hooky, propelling the music along.

It can be said that Nifelheim as a band succeeds because they aren't afraid to be shamelessly primitive and derivative of bands that they admire. It works in their favor, and somehow they synthesized all of these influences to create something that is both a love letter to other bands, and a great, worthy document of black metal in its own right.