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"To Pierce and to De-Crown!" - 100%

Autumn_aurorA, December 10th, 2010

When one considers the Blazebirth Hall, one tends to think of spaced, distanced and cold black metal, weaving into eternity and everlasting snowstorms. The main projects Branikald and Forest have cemented this notion firmly into those familiar with the circle’s efforts, and are usually the first bands that come to mind when BBH is mentioned. Each manifestation of the Hall, while similar at the core, embraces different moods and slightly different musical angles. Even though the aforementioned projects are the most prominent, the ones skirting shadows are no less worthy of mention.

After a long silence, Nitberg awoke with the ever-surprising “Nagelreid”. Originally a joint venture of BBH musicians Ulv Gegner and Kaldrad Branislav, traditionally the music entailed a familiar raw black metal grind embedded with the generous dose of RAC, the lyrics centred on skaldic motifs and the political aspects of this circle of bands. The future of the band turned to mist when Gegner was murdered, – and whatever most expected to hear, it’s doubtful they expected the magnificent effort that eventually thundered.

The album takes a big step away from a lot of hallmarks of Nitberg itself, though in some respects it also develops on some of the previous ideas and absorbs the more spiritual element of the other bands in the group. Firstly, the music is firmly grounded in black metal with a very modern feel; clear production with enough space for everything to breathe and a driving, relentless rhythm that is executed with outstanding musicianship. The abilities of the players finally have a chance to demonstrate themselves, and as a result the music is multifaceted, dynamic and full of motion without sacrificing an ounce of fury and darkness. Secondly the album runs as one track, though there are distinct conceptual chapters musically and lyrically. On the previous full-length, the songs were titled simply with roman numerals, and in a sense “Nagelreid” builds on that idea, tying everything into a knot.

As mentioned earlier, the lyrics often feature skaldic motifs and composition techniques, as is the case here. The overall arrangement is like a “wreath of sonnets”, that was common – in Shakespeare’s work!.. The last line of each stanza/chapter is the first line of the next, and the concluding line of the “undividable poem” is also the opening line of the whole piece, suggestive of an “eternal cycle of events” concept. After the main poem comes to an end, the album closes with a curse poem, again a traditional element in skaldic poetry and mirroring the episode in Saga of Egil, where a dead horse’s skull is placed on a runic staff in order to curse one’s enemies.

While attacking Christianity isn’t in any way a new thematic concept, the way the album approaches the subject is unique in its own right, but also brimming with spirit and wrath; in the words of Kaldrad, “It would seem on one hand there’s nothing new, but in the past I haven’t seen anything like this.” The spiritual catastrophe that infected Europe is illustrated with all its damaging influence. The image is dreary, terrifying and alarming. This is not an acknowledgement of defeat. On the contrary, it’s a battle horn calling to arms.

Regardless of one’s views of the NSBM scene in general, it is undeniable that this release is a landmark that elevated the genre to new levels of sophistication The lyrics are perhaps more direct and less ethereal, but again to quote Kaldrad’s words “behind the form, people rarely see the content”. And the content here is an unrestrained rush of a vitriolic river, aimed at “piercing and de-crowning” the established Rule. Listened to practically in one breath, the listener goes through the tumults of oceanic storms and the fury of elements; through the rage and inebriation of battle, and finally the flight of the free and proud once the battles have been put behind them. The clarity of the production allows the full impact of the music to bear on one’s heart and mind, and the magnificent cover artwork and booklet allow the listener to wander in their thoughts for a long time. It’s not just an album; it’s a song of war.