Narthraal are very proud of the fact that they are the only band in Iceland using the Boss HM-2 pedal to produce their fat and filthy old school Swedish death metal sound. Attempting to replicate the classic chainsaw sound is a tall order and Narthraal have a lot to live up to. Screaming From The Grave is a debut album that unashamedly plonks itself in the heart of the early 1990s. Little in the way of uniqueness and pretension resides here. Narthraal have a vocalist, two guitarists, bassist and a drummer. They make dirty music for dirty people. This is meat-and-potatoes death metal with a melodic mustard dip. It’s hearty simplicity to warm the soul, although a diet of such stodgy simplicity may grow tiresome quick.

To continue the food analogies, bread-and-butter grooves writhe with boldness as opener “Death of the Undying” storms into action. Incessant drumming, sharp and quick paced guitar attacks, and deep frothing growls combine to decent effect. It storms, surges, and settles in the memory with insignificant impact. Second track “Screaming from the Grave” has that Jungle Rot caveman-esque simplicity. Like Extreme Championship Wrestling legend The Sandman, the song slams into existence, smashes cans of beer against its metaphorical head, punches you in the face, and then flees as  blood drips down its gnarled face. It lacks subtlety, tact, and technical ability, but what it offers is raw aggression and instantaneous pleasure.

Grit and doomy heaviness come into play during “Million Graves to Fill” and “Envy.” The music slows to a putrid crawl reminiscent of Asphyx and Incantation. Its suffusion of muddy and suffocating sounds is a welcome entry into a rather uniform sounding album. Melody, however, is the main tool used to sharpen the Swedish-inspired attack. Chains of solos connected by snazzy drum fills and riff patterns increasing in tempo make up the final act of most songs. Conversely, “Descent into Darkness” opens with blood-warming soloing before an upbeat frenzy of interlocking riffs and ugly growls charges through the darkness. “Symbols of Hate” also contains decent progressions as two distinct riff-patterns battle for supremacy: one rooted in simple evilness and the other flecked with elements of melody. These diametrically opposing forces clash before a melancholy solo, as tender as a kiss from a unicorn, arrives from the fourth dimension to cast its subtle magic.

Though satisfying listening in the moment, the songs and their strong moments lack longevity. I partly attribute this to the strange production. The bass pedal sounds like its wrapped in marshmallow and sometimes the terseness of the drums disappears all together. Similarly, the bass makes its presence felt before vanishing when things get heavy, just like my father. There is a general sense of claustrophobia throughout, but not the uncomfortably welcoming sort. Songs often merge into one mushy amoeba, sapping the energy from the listening experience. Add to that some forgettable riffs – “Feed the Pig” is a sloppy example – and the largely uninspiring Gothenburg-lite “Worldwide Destruction” and you’ve got yourself an inconsistent album that cradles greatness and mediocrity in the same basket.

Final track “Dismember the Entombed” consists of lyrics made up of album and song titles from Dismember and Entombed. Narthraal are unashamedly open about their love for Swedeath and its quite endearing to see a band wearing their influences on their sleeve for all to see. However, they fail to replicate the atmospheric grit of the aforementioned bands. The second half of the song sounds like a knock-off “Left Hand Path.” As a whole – bringing in another wrestling analogy – Screaming From the Grave is like asking your mum for that cool new Hulk Hogan figure, but instead she comes home with a sort of deformed, zombie-like version named Hank Horgan, expecting you not to notice the difference. But I knew the difference, mum. I knew. Much of Screaming From The Grave feels like this. It has the features of the real thing plastered to its exterior but ultimately, it’s unrefined and hollow. Some moments, heck, even song songs, standout as being very good, however inconsistency strikes too regularly for this to stand as a strong album. Narthraal have promise, though. But so did The Sandman.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6| Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Inverse Records
Websitesnarthraal1.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Narthraal
Releases Worldwide: May 26th, 2017

Share →
  • Grymm

    That logo couldn’t be more obvious with what they sound like if it tried.

    Also, dude, have you SEEN the Sandman lately? *whistles* Dude did not age well at all.

    • Jason

      I feel like I should know what band logo you’re referring to (those horizontal spikes off the N look familiar), but I can’t conjure it in my brain. It certainly doesn’t look like Entombed or Dismember. What am I forgetting?

      • DGG.889D

        Both the name of the band and the style of the logo caused me to think of Anaal Nathrakh, but maybe the music is too dissimilar for what was being referred to.

        • DGG.889D

          It was mainly the name of the band that made me think of A. N.– The bottom of the N and the bottom and top of the L do seem to take after the first and last letters, respectively, in Dissection’s logo.

          • DGG.889D

            For what it’s worth, browsing the band’s Facebook page and iTunes listings shows that in 2015 and before, they had a different logo. My opinion is that the tone of this review and the first comment in this particular thread are at least a little on the undeservingly negative side of things.

          • Grymm

            Oh, I didn’t mean to be negative at all. Just pointing out that the logo itself is very Entombed-y, that’s all!

          • DGG.889D

            Cool, I misunderstood. Yes, I see what you mean: Narthraal’s t and the “n” part of their h correspond to Entombed’s t and n — this is just a start. Also, call me crazy, but I bet the “upper space/region” in their “N” and the upper space/region between the last a and l are meant to allude to the openings in Dissection’s D and N, respectively. Still call me crazy, but I think it’s fair to say that their logo is perhaps meant to be a strong tribute to (the logos of) Entombed and Dissection — like their last song — I enjoy Narthraal’s cleverness!

      • Dr. Wvrm

        Kinda looks like a yellowy Dissection, but also definitely not what the music sounds like.

    • Akerblogger

      To be fair, he probably looked like a middle-aged alcoholic when he was 18. Heck, he probably was a middle-aged alcoholic at 18.

      I think most wrestlers from ECW especially look like shit today, and probably feel like shit too, if they’re still alive that is: Sabu, Raven, and Terry Funk particularly.

      RVD still looks good. Wonder what he does to look so dank and fresh?

      • Matt slatz

        I think he looks at the aforementioned guys and says “oh no, that’s not gonna be me”, eats a protein bar, and hits the gym

  • Jason

    The embedded track doesn’t sound bad and the cover art looks cool.

  • welyyt

    I love how they’re just chilling out in that video.

    • Excentric_13073

      Pretty sure one dude is hanging out in his underwear.

    • Michael Saurette

      lmao yeah probably the best death metal music video i’ve seen in a while

  • Brent Johnson

    80’s NBA called and want the guitarist to give their shorts back. I was expecting to not like the embedded track but it’s actually pretty good. I’ll check out more.

  • Wes Allen

    Hank Hogan… just not the same.

  • Me

    Vocals really make or break music and I love the vox here. Love the tones, the riffs. Totally picking this up.

    • Name’s Dalton

      Agreed

    • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

      I agree about vocals making or breaking the music, and these vocals broke it for me. Not deep enough or strong enough in my opinion.

      • lennymccall

        I agreed at first on the vocals but then I just let it keep playing and found I could deal with them. I really love the sound of the rest of the band so I think I might convince myself I need to purchase this one anyway.
        Still tho they really could have punched those vocals up a lot and things would have gelled better.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    That’s actually quite a nice band photo.

    • Thatguy

      Metal shouldn’t be nice.

      • Feytalist

        It’s got Icelandic scenery in the background. It’s not their fault; they couldn’t help it.

  • Nahuel Benvenuto

    are you gonna do teh Ayreon review or not? is almost a joke that the Dragonforce one came out before that, also, Rhapsody of Fire just released his “Best of” album and is hilariously terrible, except for the band play

  • Norfair Legend

    So who’s the best modern swe-death band? I’m feeling spicy. Revel in Flesh is good

    • DGG.889D

      Thanks for mentioning RiF: I’ve looked them up, and I’ll be spending some time checking them out.

  • Jack Outjers

    “… the bass makes its presence felt before vanishing when things get heavy, just like my father”

    :(

  • “Death Of The Undying”? Sounds difficult.

  • rumour_control

    Excellent line:
    “…an inconsistent album that cradles greatness and mediocrity in the same basket.”