Released: 2014, Trollzorn Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Germany's Nothgard go over the top and then some with their second album. Headed by vocalist/lead guitarist Dom R. Crey - who recently also joined up with black/folk metal countrymen Equilibrium and whose raspy screech is strikingly similar to Children of Bodom's Alexi Laiho – and boasting a three guitar attack they describe as a “guitar orchestra,” the band mix epic, melodic death metal with power metal, add a liberal splash of folk/pagan/Viking/battle metal and throw some symphonic twists in for good measure on Age of Pandora. It makes for a sonic experience that can be rather dazzling, if also a bit confusing.
Melodic death metal certainly provides the core of Nothgard's sound, but it almost never simply stands on its own. Even the more traditional minded “Anima,” Black Witch Venture” or “In Blood Remained” are resplendent with power metal overtones in their dive-bomb guitar sorties and the twisting solo tradeoffs/duels between Crey and Daniel K. that are nothing short of spectacular, especially on the title track and “Obey The King” where the tandem's pyrotechnics give the dudes in Dragonforce a run for their money. If guitars galore are your thing, this definitely is the album for you since there is plenty of rhythm interplay as well with Skaahl getting in on the act and sawing away for all he’s worth.
The title track and its follow up, “Blackened Seed,” actually open the album on more of a Turisas/Finntroll-style folk/battle metal note with their fleet, finger-dance guitar lines, keyboard bursts and gang shouted rally cry choruses. “No One Holds The Crown,” which closes the album, lays it on even thicker, with a longer, more involved arrangement that ends in a symphonic wash of horns, strings and percussion to circle back to the instrumental opener “Of Light And Shadow.”
“Obey The King” is a bit more epic and thunderous, recalling Amon Amarth with its heroic vibe, booming hooks and Crey's chest-beating vocals. I'm not a fan of Laiho's vocals with COB, in fact I find them downright grating. So, personally speaking, Crey's singing here leaves something to be desired – notably on “Mossback Children,” which is easily the album's most straight-forward track - and tends to the weakest link in the chain.
But the other links, for the most part, more than pick up the slack. The tangle of styles can sometimes leave you feeling a bit lost, but the prowess of the band – and the abandon, finesse and passion they bring to their performances – is really quite amazing and infectious, and will keep leading you back. This sort of stuff typically doesn’t do much for me, but here the bravado is served with a smile, and that’s pretty cool.