Released: 2001, Oriana Music
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Following the recent re-release of “Return of the Vampire Lord / Marble Moon” by Osmose Productions, it was mandatory for me to revisit this amazing compilation album. Therefore, let’s go back in 1997 at the time when Nokturnal Mortum were very prolific. After recording the monument “Goat Horns”, the band released a Split tape “Path of the Wolf / Return of the Vampire Lord” along with their compatriots Lucifugum. Both hordes also joined their forces to carve a great EP “Вече” under the name of Vetche. Unfortunately, this one-time project (or supergroup if you prefer) was created just to make this record.
Then, the Ukrainians did two EPs “Return of the Vampire Lord” (all tracks were taken from the Split album with Lucifugum) and “Marble Moon” in tape format. Four years later, Knjaz Varggoth decided to re-release both EPs as a compilation tape through his own label Oriana Music. It contained two rare Burzum and Graveland covers as bonus tracks and was reissued again in CD in 2003. Nowadays, all previous versions are sold out of course and that’s the reason why legendary French label Osmose Productions have recently made a deluxe vinyl edition (limited to 500 copies) for this cult compilation.
“Return of the Vampire Lord / Marble Moon” is actually the ideal record to discover Nokturnal Mortum’s art as the tracks are very different from each other. First of all, the most important song is definitely “Return of the Vampire Lord”, an epic composition that became later one of the band’s classics. I think it would have been even better if the production was rawer. Anyway, it’s still more than 11 minutes of pure symphonic/melodic black metal of the highest quality. After that, they remixed the two tracks from their 1993 demo “Mi Agama Khaz Mifisto” released at the time when they were called Crystaline Darkness. Varggoth, Munruthel and Karpath were playing old-school, raw black metal in the vein of old Samael and these songs are really good. It’s very interesting to see that they were already talented during their early years.
As expected, keyboardists Saturious and Sataroth did a nice instrumental song “Intro / Hymn of Our Fatherland”, which is in fact a cover of Ukraine’s national anthem (“Shche ne vmerla Ukraina”). I’m not Ukrainian at all but I have to say it’s one of the most beautiful national hymns I’ve ever heard. Since “Twilightfall”, Nokturnal Mortum have always shown their love for their country and culture. So, it was absolutely logical that they offered such cover. There were also demo versions of two excellent tracks that would appear later on their fourth masterpiece “To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire”. For instance, “On the Moonlight Path” proves they’re clearly the masters of folk/symphonic black metal. In my opinion, this is the compilation’s best song due to its unique icy atmosphere and enchanting synths.
In order to make discover their native folk music, the band did a brilliant cover of “Через річку, через гай” (a traditional Ukrainian song) and its instrumental version as well. These happy melodies are fascinating since they kind of invite the listener to a village feast in the Carpathian Mountains. To conclude, they had the great idea to perform three classics from Death SS, Burzum and Graveland. The best cover is undoubtedly “Family Vault”, originally written and composed by cult Italian horror metallers Death SS. Their version is completely different than the original one as it includes some fantastic operatic female vocals, atmospheric keyboards, a faster rhythm and shorter guitar solo. Nokturnal Mortum’s rendition sounds more gothic and black metal whereas the first one is heavier. Anyway, both songs are amazing! Their cover of Burzum’s “My Journey to the Stars” is far better than the original version, musically speaking. Indeed, they added efficiently some inspired layers of synths, bringing an epic feeling to the composition. However, Count Grishnackh’s screams stay irreplaceable. Regarding the cover of Graveland’s “Turisaz”, Rob Darken can be proud of his friend Varggoth! In my opinion, the Ukrainian’s version is again better than the original one as it sounds more melodic and majestic. Saturious / Sataroth’s keyboards are also more sophisticated here.
By the way, Osmose Productions’ limited vinyl edition contains three bonus tracks (Motörhead, Slayer and W.A.S.P. covers) previously released on different CD albums. It has also the full and stunning painting by Sir Gorgoroth showing a witch flying beneath a marble moon. Get quickly your vinyl before it’s too late! Indispensable.
Review by Oliver Manso