Released: 2009, Oriana Music
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Four years after “Weltanschauung”, Ukrainian legends Nokturnal Mortum came back in 2009 with their sixth opus “The Voice of Steel”. From my point of view, it is in fact their eighth album because I consider “Twilightfall” and “Lunar Poetry” (their first demos along with “Black Clouds over Slavonic Lands”) as real full-length albums. Many things happened during this four-year gap for the band. In 2007, they participated in a split CD “Eastern Hammer” along with their friends Graveland, Temnozor and North. It was released by Polish label Hammerbolt Productions and limited to 999 copies. Then, they officially left the Pagan Front one year later, changed their logo and made their first live album “Live in Katowice” (recorded in Poland) through cult German label No Colours Records in 2009.
At the moment I’m writing this review, “The Voice of Steel” is still their last album to date and for this one, the band preferred to release it through their own small label Oriana Music. Whatever happens, Nokturnal Mortum will stay underground and they will always get my total respect since they declined the attractive offers they received from several big mainstream labels (including Nuclear Blast) in the nineties. After their departure from the Pagan Front, some people thought they would enter the mainstream scene by signing with large companies but they were all mistaken.
Illustrated by a magnificent artwork, this latest opus is an absolute masterpiece of folk/symphonic black metal that has surprised many of their fans. It has received outstanding reviews from the international critics so far and has been hailed as their best work to date. The first striking fact is the appearance of progressive elements in their epic compositions. “Valkyrie” is a good example of this new musical direction with its soaring guitar solo reminding a bit Pink Floyd. The Prog’ touch has been added perfectly to the songs which are far more sophisticated than in the past. Varggoth and his comrades have clearly proven that they are talented musicians.
Nowadays, it’s rare to see some great musicianship in the black metal scene. His guitar solos are very inspired and melodic. Saturious is simply the best keyboardist I’ve ever heard in this genre of music. Through the years, he has succeeded in forging its own sound that is easily recognizable in the numerous excellent acts he played with (Lucifugum, Astrofaes, Temnozor, Finist, Munruthel, Anthropolatri, Khors, etc.) and contributed a lot to create the Ukrainian black metal style. He has mixed different ways of playing keyboards efficiently on this album. The symphonic orchestrations are majestic, sumptuous whereas the progressive layers of synths are highly atmospheric and remind a bit the prog’ rock scene of the seventies. He has also performed all local folkloric instruments, taking his inspiration from the Ukrainian traditional music. The folk melodies are so enchanting that they would incite the listener to visit this beautiful country straight away.
Varggoth’s vocals are still very charismatic and personal. His black metal singing is both hateful and a bit spoken. Furthermore, his strong Ukrainian accent makes his voice even more original. Many of his compatriots have used the same singing style and that’s one of the typical features of the Ukrainian black metal sound. His clean vocals are also very pleasant on the stunning folkloric ballad “Sky of Saddened Nights”. Nokturnal Mortum have succeeded in alternating impressive technical abilities with the Slavonic pagan atmosphere that can be felt delightfully from the beginning until the end. By the way, some fantastic choirs (on “Ukraine” and “Valhalla” for instance) strengthen the heathen feeling of the compositions. As for the production, it is almost crystal clear and miles away from the raw sound they used to create in the past.
“The Voice of Steel” is a monument of both folk and symphonic black metal. It’s an unforgettable journey throughout the Slavonic ancestral lands and one of the best albums of the genre ever made. It isn’t better than their previous cult classic masterpieces (such as “Lunar Poetry”, “Goat Horns” or “Nechrist” for example). I would say it is completely different and can’t be compared to them. In 2011, they released a double live album “Kolovorot” through Oriana Music again and Saturious left the band three years later unfortunately.
I don’t know how Nokturnal Mortum will reach or surpass the level of their amazing jewels without him. But I’m still confident regarding their future as they have always been incredible despite constant line-up changes throughout their career. I wish them good luck and all the best anyway. To conclude, “The Voice of Steel” has been remastered and reissued in 2015 in a deluxe 2CD digipack containing great bonus tracks, new improved 38-page booklet and a nice mini-poster. Absolutely astonishing and indispensable! Slava Nokturnal Mortum!
Review by Olivier Manso.