Nokturnal Mortum - Голос Сталі (The Voice of Steel) - 5/5
Sometimes even the best of us are guilty of pre-judging an artist before listening and the result is missing out on gems such as this. Knowing the bands National Socialist ideology (they’re hardly quiet about their Aryan beliefs) before hearing the music was the deal sealer in this case, expecting to find little more than some backyard black metal that has only succeeded in getting noticed because they yelled ‘down with blacks’ and shot more homosexuals than the rest of their attention seeking brethren, and whilst many who claim to be NSBM are likely just using it as a means to get recognition, it feels like such a small part of this artists overall epic work that it barely deserves mentioning except for debunking it as a flaw as I’m doing now.
You don’t have to agree with their beliefs – I for one certainly don’t – but even madmen are capable of genius. Just ask a ‘Burzum’ fan. In fact, unless you happen to speak perfect Russian and translate the lyrics from the liner notes its unlikely you’d notice anyway. Even when you realise that two of the members once had prominent roles to play in the Raw Black Metal band ‘Lucifugum,’ further implying their likely style of playing, nothing can quite prepare you for the overwhelming warmth that hits you, the clean melodic vocals amidst atmospheric synths and majestic folk instrumentation. This is more ‘Crimfall’ than anything else, barely fitting the title ‘Black’ at all as there is certainly more optimism and strength here than despair, and certainly more than a touch of ‘Floyd-esque’ psychedelia to the rich multi-layered proceedings.
The instrumentation in itself doesn’t feel impressive, but its simply how everything has been worked together; the folk instrumentation never becoming dominative but used as musical flavouring on top of the heart of the music, the guitars and vocals suddenly giving way to gentle ambient synth-laden passages and tribal bombastic drums only to have everything return once more and create their melodic cacophony. You could take any of the many layers – the twin guitars, keyboards, horns, accordions, hurdy-gurdy, flutes, violins, drums, bass guitar or the vocals – and follow their individual lines and find little worth mentioning, but it’s the culmination of each one following their own individual melodies within the complex composition that provides its appeal.
This is no small feat to accomplish and the spit-polished production has worked a treat in creating warmth whilst still retaining a raw visceral element, and allowing the vocals – both clean and growled – a share of the end result, fighting to make themselves heard amidst the instrumentation rather than simply have their levels boosted; as much a part of the music as any other instrument. It’s hardly the most aggressive piece conceived, and it seems comfortable enough in itself to remain relatively mid-tempo, in no rush to unfold the epic masterpieces of music seamlessly woven into one another to form a single 70 minute entity, shifting and sliding around within their narrow but well defined spectrum of sound. Once again I have found proof that appearances can be very deceiving.
Highlights: Голос Сталі, Моєї Мрії Острови, White Tower