A curious warmth spreads over Kotka, Finland based black metal act Nattfog as they’d reduce from a duo unto a solo act comprised solely of Adelwolf (aka Vulcan Sacrilege) that’d originally been an offshoot from Aske offshoot Norns. Having formed a deeply resonant semi-melodic style on ‘Mustan Auringon Riitti’ (2012) it’d come as a bit of a shock to find their ‘Yön varjoista…’ EP not only reminiscent of the past, with the inclusion of their first demo, but also celebrating the first decade of the project with a somewhat emboldened sound. The two new pieces from that EP were strikingly melodic, I mean it wasn’t fuckin’ Moonsorrow but there was an undeniable touch of early 2000’s folk, viking, or pagan metal affect… however you’d place the hooks and heavy keyboard presence. 2019 comes as a new beginning for the project as this compilation finds Adelwolf re-recording two of the tracks from their split with Nekrokrist SS in 2011, including the two original songs from the 2018 EP and kicking off the album with three new original compositions which are easily among the best Nattfog have ever produced. It is the most essential release from the band to date and will serve as the ideal introduction to their discography thus far.
The three brand new songs are perhaps the most compelling piece of this quasi retrospective collection not only for the face that they are new but because each brings something entirely different but still successfully melodic. The opener “Night Of The Ancient Rites” may just be the most alluring organ-grinding black metal song since Black Magick SS first struck the internet. Though I’m not entirely sure if that resemblance is intentional though, and I’d additionally point towards recent Abhor and earlier Förgjord for some of that same resemblance. “Orjahuoran Laulu” is a bit closer to the style of ‘Mustan Auringon Riitti’ though I am not clear if Destruction (Norns) wrote or played guitar on any of these new songs. The titular track once again shifts stylistically towards a more typical Finnish melodic black metal style a la Goatmoon with a fair amount of folk influencing the arc of the melody as it moves towards the cosmic folk metal outro. At the very least I’d say Nattfog are moving in a much more clear pagan metal direction based on the newer material collected here.
The last four tracks on this compilation represent the quality disparity typical of most split 7″ releases where one very powerful song is paired with a potentially throwaway or, less meaningful piece. The re-recorded tracks from the split with Nekrokrist SS are a hundred times more clear compared to the originals where the guitars and vocals were almost inaudible. The same pace and melodic values exist, though, and this sort of had me eating my thoughts a bit in realizing Nattfog had always been a bit of a folkish pagan metal band but were easy to overlook due to the relatively low fidelity of those earlier releases. “Yön Varjoista…” is one of the better songs the project has produced and it still shines very brightly here despite the strength of the newer material that kicks off this compilation; You could maybe skip one or two tracks included here but definitely not that one. If you buy the LP and wonder where the hell the EP tracks are, as far as I know they’re only included on the CD version of ‘Pohjan Porteilta’.
If you have no particular love for mid-paced melodic folkish pagan black metal then of course you’re better off skipping this glorious glance into the past-and-present Nattfog offerings. I am such a sucker for this type of grandly presented but relatively stripped down keyboard-enhanced black metal. It sticks in the mind and medicates without fail. Because it is such a fine introduction to what is perhaps some of the most ‘catchy’ black metal I’ve come across in a while I can give moderately high recommendation for ‘Pohjan Porteilta’ with the understanding that it is a niche product. For preview I’d say the biggest hooks are within “Night Of The Ancient Rites” and “Yöni Usvassa” though the title track is a closer runner-up among my favorites.
Time is the dark of the night. 3.75/5.0
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