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Naglfar
Sheol
June 2003
Released: 2003, Century Media
Rating: 3.8/5
Reviewer: Night of the Realm

Naglfar aren’t exactly the most prolific band in the metal kingdom. Releasing their first full-length in 1995, these Norwegian purveyors of black thrash-death are only on their third full-length with the release of SHEOL (Translated from the Hebrew as “Hell”).



I’ve never actually listened to any of Naglfar’s works prior to SHEOL, so I don’t have any baseline to which I can compare SHEOL. For that reason, I held off reviewing this album for a month, hoping that something would click between Naglfar and I.



Well, after many listens, I still can’t get into SHEOL. They claim to play a blend of black thrash-death, but the end result is more akin to the blasting/grinding of a Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir, minus the endless sea of keys. Yeah, this really is not my thing. Songs like “I Am Vengeance,” “Wrath of the Fallen,” and “Force of Pandemonium” really pass by without leaving much of an impression. “The Infernal Ceremony” doesn’t count either, as it is a mellow piano outro, very out of place with the tone on the rest of the album.



SHEOL does have some really great moments, though. “Black God Aftermath” is a really powerful track. I’m getting a strong Dissection feel from this one. The dual guitars really stand out with the combination of a melodic lead going along with a super thick backing riff. The fury slows down in tempo only, sacrificing no intensity while Jens belts out a simple chorus, “BLACK! GOD! AFTERMATH!” Yeah, by the 3rd listen or so, I’m expecting this part, and my fist’s in the air as I scream along. “Abyssmal Descent” has quite a bit of variation, starting out with a slow death metal groove until a few seconds of silence separate the last half of this seven-minute track. Here, the band picks up some speed (still only slightly faster than mid-paced), with a melodic riff much like the latest Old Man’s Child album, IN DEFIANCE OF EXISTANCE. “Devoured by Naglfar” is the most death-metal track on the album. Why the hell can’t they cut back on the blastbeats? Too many great passages are bogged down and separated by these breaks. Mattias Grahn proves from time to time on this album that he can really lay down an intense double-bass line with plenty of killer rolls. I wish he would express this talent more frequently. “Of Gorgons Spawned Through Witchcraft” is a killer track. The melodic lead here is still quite raw and cuts right to the bone; background keys help create a more haunting atmosphere. This track, too, reminds me very much of OMC’s latest work. “Unleash Hell” does precisely what the title indicates. Well, it unleashes SOMETHING. Jesus FUCKING piss on a stick! Where the hell did this ripping melodic guitar duel come from? Holy shit does this track rule. Too bad it’s the shortest one on the album at just 3:31. The short little solo coming in after only 55 seconds is straight from the old school of classic metal, and totally unexpected. Were that the rest of the album was in this style; I would be humping the fuck out of it. Oh yeah, the lead riff on here is absolutely scathing. My head’s banging now. The last track, “Force of Pandemonium” doesn’t do much for me overall, but it does have a couple nice solos, and a strong melodic lead breakdown starting around the 3 minute mark.



Naglfar does a good job bringing SHEOL out, and damn well they do, since they’ve only had 5 years since the last full-length to do so. At least they’re not as lazy as Manowar. The production on this album is clear; it is only through inane blast-grind passages that the guitars are lost. The artwork, too, by Niklas Sundin is awesome, in a disturbing kinda way. It’s one of those covers that just has a creepy feel to it. I wish I had a full album in front of me, instead of a promo slipcase so I could see what the rest of the layout looks like. In the end, I dug this quite a bit more than I expected to. We’ve got 3 absolutely killer tracks with “Black God Aftermath,” “Of Gorgons Spawned Through Witchcraft,” and “Unleash Hell,” and some redeeming moments in a couple others. I may just have to go back and investigate Naglfar’s back catalog.
Track Listing

1.I Am Vengeance
2. Black God Aftermath
3. Wrath Of The Fallen
4. Abysmal Descent
5. Devoured By Naglfar
6. Of Gorgons Spawned Through Witchcraft
7. Unleash Hell
8. Force Of Pandemonium
9. The Infernal Ceremony

Lineup

Andreas Nilsson - lead guitar
Marcus "Vargher" Norman - rhythm guitar
Jens Rydén - vocals
Mattias Grahn - drums
Kristoffer "Wrath" Olivius - bass & vocals


Next review: » Naglfar - Sheol
Previous review: » Naglfar - Pariah

Naglfar
Sheol
July 2003
Released: 2003, New Haven
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP

Ultimately a reviewer should not be influenced by the opinions of other reviewers. However, it is nice when a reviewer, myself in this case, feels something is superb and has other people confirm that feeling. I have read a number of positive reviews of this disc and a few of them have expressed a similar sentiment. That is, Naglfar has delivered a masterpiece but some of us are not quite sure how.



I don’t mean to suggest that the band was incapable of such work, in fact the first few releases by the band were well received in the underground. What I do mean is that SHEOL has this intangible quality in my mind that puts it ahead of the pack. I’m having a hard time articulating why this CD appeals to me so much. I mean in the realm of extreme music there are bands that are heavier, faster, gorier, blacker…whatever but Naglfar seem to have mixed all the elements in the right proportions to create a recipe for awesome metal.



The vocals of Jens Ryden blow me away. I LOVED his solo project Dead Silent Slumber and he takes his voice to another plane on this release. Everything about this disc is total quality. Absolutely crushing and searing guitars, interesting songs a brilliant blend of ultra-precise and speedy aggression and some variety in a few slower spots. Char-blackened thrash par extraordinaire, Sheol (Hebrew for Hell) is a very fitting title.



The title ‘Of Gorgons Spawned Through Witchcraft’ may sound like a lame COF knock-off but the track has none of the neo-goth stylings of COF. This track was in fact featured on the Ex Inferis MCD from a couple of years back. Lead off track, ‘I am Vengeance’

kills all who behold her. Lyrically this is loosely based around Dante’s descriptions of the various levels of hell. As I have not read Dante, this subtle point is lost on me but scholar of the works may find a great appreciation in the lyrics.



SHEOL is one of those discs with the immeasurable X-Factor, that unspoken quality, so hard to define yet so attractive appealing. This is black metal done with flair, passion and precision. Naglfar adhere to the archetypes of the genre but push those boundaries ever so slightly that this offering is sure to make many critics Top 10 of 2003. Visit the bands recently revamped web-site at http://www.naglfar.net.
Track Listing

1. I Am Vengeance
2. Black God Aftermath
3. Wrath of The Fallen
4. Abysmal Descent
5. Devoured By Naglfar
6. Of Gorgons Spawned Through Witchcraft
7. Unleash Hell
8. Force of Pandemonium
9. The Infernal Ceremony

Lineup

Jens Ryden-Vocals
Andreas Nilsson-Guitar
Marcus V. Norman-Guitar
Kristoffer W. Olvius-Bass
Mattias Grahn-Drums

Contact

N/A


Next review: » Naglfar - Teras
Previous review: » Naglfar - Pariah





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