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The Four Seasons of Nocte Obducta - 92%

Amenakhte, August 14th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Supreme Chaos Records

To my ear, this is one of the crown jewels of Nocte Obducta's solid and prolific discography (the other being the next chapter, Nektar - Teil 2). With this album, this challenging and varied band has taken on the four seasons in a way that is the most layered, progressive, and complete display of their musicianship yet (and would continue on the next album). Of the two Nektar albums, this is my favorite due to its moody and dynamic nature, wherein Nektar II is a little more straightforward, with perhaps a more consistent message, if a little front-loaded.

I won't go in track details too much, but to summarize slightly, after a brief but suitable intro, we start with Fruhling (Spring). This is the most accessible and melodic piece, almost reminding of the early days of Swedish melodeath (in a good way - think Dawn's Slaughtersun or Dark Tranquility's Gallery as the best examples that come to mind quickly). All four songs/seasons are between 10 and 15 minutes long, allowing them plenty of space to stretch out and expand ideas, without becoming too repetitive and destroying the atmosphere they create.

Speaking of atmosphere, once we get to Sommer, the easy draw of quick sweeping melodies that dominated the first season start to dissipate a little, allowing the entry of a greater amount of dynamics, tempo and mood changes. This is still black metal at its foundation, so tremolo flurries and quick drumming are abound, but the great quality of these two Nektar albums lies in the way these guys expertly blend in the melodies, tempo changes, aggressiveness and serenity. Vivaldi would be proud!

The theme continues, with Herbst (Autumn) and Winter starting out with extensive delicate introductions that climb into amazing, thoughtful riffs that express the nature of their respective seasons, and weave to and fro, in expressing the moods that one might experience as a result of the power of nature manifested in a black metal cloak. Expect a layered, complicated listen, with enough accessibility to grab the ear and provide a memorable experience, but with enough variety to keep this album on the playlist pretty regularly.

Nektar II would continue with the musical expression of Nektar I, but explore different themes and higher and lower levels of aggression and power. If only I understood German completely, I'm sure I could add more layers to this review. Given the experience and talent of this band, I would expect coherent, and even perhaps brilliant lyrics and concepts to go with this music. It would also help me understand the different themes expressed in Nektar II as a comparison, but unfortunately I have to base most of my opinion on the musical display. I enjoy some of the earliest albums from this band quite a bit (Taverne and occasionally Lethe, in particular), but their post-revival albums (2013 - 2017) leave me a little uninterested. However, these two Nektar albums remain my go-to choices when in the mood for this band, given the expansion of the ideas on Taverne, rather than the simplification that the albums in between displayed. The Stille ep is also worth checking out, as a preview of what was to come on the Nektar albums. The vocalist (Torsten) also produced some albums as Agrypnie, which at times explores some of the same musical expression as Nocte Obducta, with a few post-black tendencies sprinkled in, and I enjoy a couple of his albums as well. However, they do not top the collective majesty and completeness on display with the Nektar albums.

Give either of the Nektar albums a chance, and I think you will enjoy them as a happy marriage between the challenging and approachable, the aggressive and thoughful, and the atmospheric and intense. You may hear little nuances of many of the great black metal bands of the 1994 - 2004 period, but in the end, Nocte Obducta has developed their own sound and sense of presentation that takes the best ideas from many of their influences, forming them into something great!