With an unclear and generally uninteresting provenance to discuss Norwegian black metal band Nattverd‘s low potential for trivial information scrapes the mucosal readiness of my mind into a scum bucket, without care for anything but a direct focus upon their very straightforward sound. They’re from Bergen, they’ve been kicking around the idea of Nattverd as a project for at least twenty years, and doing it for a minimum of six years. The finite corporeal details of the bands existence intentionally sets no expectations for the past beyond their core ethos, which is best communicated as pre-’96 Norwegian black metal engorged with ‘modern’ atmospheric shapes. Plague, violence, and death clash with a warmly tuned production for an unnerving and excessive full hour of new-old ideas from old ghosts on the duo’s second album, ‘Styggdom’.
Though it may be a bit of a riddle to figure your way through the riddle of “Our past doesn’t matter, we play old music” the gist of it being that the artist’s intent is not curated beyond those who’re like-minded, a direct missile for folks with similar tastes. The specificity of influence here is something even the most introductory course in Norwegian black metal would reveal with very ‘easy’ nods to Darkthrone and Mayhem (among others) reinforcing Nattverd‘s worldview across the lengthy span of ‘Styggdom’. This second album won’t initially appear divergent from their debut full-length (‘Vi Vet gud Er En Løgner‘, 2017) on a superficial level until the nearly 10 minute mid-point on the album, “Heksebrann”, pulls away from the old cult and reveals the modern nudity of Nattverd‘s bigger picture; At this point their dirge swerves into lengthy atmospheric passages that incorporate samples, rock beats, and all of those filthy habits from the early 2000’s. The samples are a huge point of irritation for my own tastes but the effect was appropriate, providing me with minor frustration, headache and malaise after the full hour had expressed.
Disgust is a valuable reaction when most Norse black metal throwbacks inspire apathy. As plainly overused atmospheric black metal guitar technique seeps into revisionist history under the guise of 90’s throwback black metal with increasing frequency, the less people remember the specific violent attack of Norwegian black metal in its earliest phase. If I care enough to be revolted then those expectations were built up in an organic sense and in this particular case ‘Styggdom’ provide big riffs that compel and craft songs that are occasionally repulsive in their indifference towards rawness or aggression. Mork and Sjukdom have writ similar works in recent years, filling about a third of the album with ‘flow’ pieces and leaving the listener on the edge in waiting for the harder hitting stuff.
The trouble I’d hit around “Gamle Erik” is that it’d felt like the only way Nattverd could hold my attention was to (more or less) reference the dynamic of ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ opening moments. Sure, bands have made solid careers of this (and it is too much of a generalization on my part) but, the point being that ‘Styggdom’ feels split into two personalities for the sake of not writing the same album twice. The results don’t entirely blend. “Hedninger av en svart verden” and “Heksebrann” sit in a separate bubble from “Skoddeskot” and “Gatelangs i land og rike”; Normally I’d read this as a good mix of variety but the effect of flitting between the two styles across the hour is unsatisfying, unnatural and hideous. Exactly what auld Norwegian black metal is meant to be, a suffering dark art that couldn’t care less about your indoctrination.
Did it win me over? Any reaction is a good thing, but ‘Styggdom’ is only great because it inspired a reaction at all. The morose moodiness of certain tracks eclipses their moderate takes on classic black metal riffing most of the time but there are a few inspiring jolts of early 90’s Norwegian fire along the way. An hour is far too long to jerk my ears between the two partially blended faces of Nattverd but to sit through the whole thing repeatedly eventually creates the desired result, a rotted soul-dragging battery into distraught illness. The unpure suffering of ‘Styggdom’ deserves some moderate recommendation for the pain it inflicts and the hopeful curiosity it stamps out.
Moderate recommendation. 3.5/5.0
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