I’m inclined to jump at the opportunity to review any music that surfaces out of the Icelandic metal scene. Their strong talent, adventurous spirit, desire to cross or mix genres and their overall quirkiness usually makes for an exciting listen. That was my expectation with Naðra. Signal Rex added fuel to the fire with their hype indicating that Naðra pools the collective talents of “prolific underground bands” like Misþyrming and Carpe Noctem. All this setup and all I ended up with was a present-day band, recreating old school black metal at times reminiscent of Mayhem that veers determinedly into Khold and Gehenna‘s respective territories. Just like the pot of chili I knocked together this weekend, the process was flawless, the ingredients all there, and yet there’s a blandness that I just can’t budge.
Things get off to an abrupt and destructive start with opener “Fjallið.” It’s a fast-paced number loaded with piss and vinegar, haunted by a subtle Burzum-like melody. The track includes all the usual old-school black metal tricks and trademarks, but makes use of more modern and polished production techniques, allowing Naðra to deliver something that’ll easily bring to mind Khold and Gehenna. Vocally, Ö. lets it all hang out – raspy, high-pitched shrieks, regurgitations, screams and vocal theatrics are all shoehorned into the song in one way or another. The most cutting part being the sharp little guitar solo buried around the 3-minute mark that leaves you with something cool to hang onto, be it only for a short while. My biggest gripe with the track, is that even at only a little over 4-minutes, it still ends up overstaying its welcome.
Much of what follows is a repeat or variation on what you just heard in “Fjallið.” The oddities that would make this an interesting listen are concentrated in only a couple of tracks, few and far between. Things pick up some quirk around the 2-minute mark of “Falið” and then again towards the back-end of “Sár.” Here Naðra introduces a doomy layer that jabs at the memory banks, sometimes bringing to mind the heaviness of 11th Hour‘s Burden of Grief and at other times the old-timey core of Saint Vitus. “Sár” holds a little more weirdness, opening up in true-blue American black metal style, with a wandering cello that turns the tables and provides an unexpectedly restful atmosphere. It’s a welcome contrast to the aggressive nature of the rest of the album. The track draws to a reluctant close, wrapping up with what seems like a nostalgic film clip including a chattering bird and a mysterious voice-over. All these moments are great, but they’re not enough to make Allir Vegir Til Glötunar a real thing ov beauty.
Much of this album comes across as stereotypical and despite listen upon listen, the tracks fail to properly commit to memory. Having said that, I have two bigger complaints. Firstly, the jarring nature of the drum contributions courtesy of H.R.H.. I’m guessing this was Naðra‘s homage to Mayhem‘s “Silvester Anfang.” Unfortunately it just doesn’t work in this setting, or at this set of hands, and so the drumwork ends up becoming more and more grating with ongoing listens. Finally, it comes down to song length being my biggest gripe. Old school black metal, even shrouded in a nice modern production style, is NOT a genre in which you want things stretched out. I would be inclined to think that this should have been at the very forefront of the band’s mind when they made the decision to release Allir Vegir Til Glötunar using a time-restrained format such as cassette tape [Use of said medium clearly indicates irrational minds. – Steel Druhm].
The guitar tone and solo work ends up being the only real selling point of this album. Moments like the acoustic sounding interlude that breaks in around the midsection of “Fallið” along with the piercing solos nestled within this and previous tracks hint at Naðra‘s potential. Allir Vegir Til Glötunar is just another non-essential black metal album and unfortunately, when all is said and done, there’s not enough here to entice me back.