Released: 2006, Sepulchral Productions
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
In a similar vein as Blut Aus Nord, Xasthur and Burzum, Quebec’s Niflheim (not to be confused with the Swedish band of the same name) espouse depressive black metal that is long on ambience and short on the usual archetypes that hinder the genre. The music on NEURASTHENIE (a mental condition causing unbearably intense grief) is slow-paced and the songs are long, averaging over seven minutes apiece, so the usual neck-breaking swarm of noisy guitars and jackhammer blastbeats are nowhere to be found. Howling, distorted vocals and haunting guitar passages generate a chilly atmosphere of utter hopelessness and rampant despair. This is excellent stuff but should come with a prescription for some sort of anti-depressives.
The clean guitar instrumental, “Le Neurasthénique,” opens NEURASTHENIE and its understated simplicity sets the mood perfectly for the rest of the CD. Neptune’s subdued acoustic guitar lines are at once quiet and determined, fierce yet serene. Plodding along at nearly six minutes, “The Cold Wind of My Breath Is Always Blowing” sends a chill through the listener with Orion’s desolate vocals echoing from way back in the mix behind Neptune’s jangling riff. “Lueur D'Ombre,” a sure bet to rope in any fan of Xasthur, is a wall of digitally distorted, misanthropic-sounding shrieks and creeping cymbal hits that personify minimalist evil. Even when introducing some barely-there keyboards on “Where So Many Tombs Were Forgotten,” they merely lend another angle to the bleakness presented.
The image of the poor soul whose downcast head and black-and-grey rendering on the cover of NEURASTHENIE speaks a thousand words of the evocative nature of the music contained therein. Niflheim have created an understated masterpiece of atmospheric depressive black metal on their full-length debut, a recording which is equally dark, raw and misanthropic (“I dwell in the sewers of life” - sample lyric from “Where So Many Tombs Were Forgotten”). Brilliant from start to finish.
KILLER KUTS: “The Cold Wind of My Breath Is Always Blowing,” “Lueur D'Ombre,” “Where So Many Tombs Were Forgotten,” “Funérailles”