Netherbird // Monument Black Colossal
Rating: 3.5/5.0 —Crappy name, but this bird can fly.
Label: Scarecrow Recordings
Websites: netherbird.com | myspace.com/netherbird
Release Dates: EU: 09.07.2010 | US: 07.20.2010

One thing that I love about heavy metal is that every time you think you have a pretty thorough knowledge of the overall scene, some band you never heard of slithers out of some crevasse and bites you in the ass. Sweden’s Netherbird is just such an ass biter and their second full length, Monument Black Colossal seemingly came out of nowhere and surprised me with some impressively done melodic black metal, despite the really crappy band name and nonsensical album title. What is it with Sweden and metal these days anyway? That place is crawling with quality, ass biting bands!

For those of you equally snake bit and thinking, “Who the hell is Netherbird?” well, what you should expect is very high level, melodic black metal with lots of frills including Dracula’s castle keyboards, ghostly female vocals, choral samples, odd sound effects and generally over-the-top bombast. An easy reference point could be Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir but Netherbird also includes nods to Dissection and even Darkthrone in their sound. Setting them apart to a degree is the inclusion of large amounts of low register death metal vocal abuse, along with the usual shrill screeching and cackling. In fact, the death growls almost share equal billing across Monument and that adds some spice to the already well-seasoned proceedings. Both the death and black vocals are effective and well executed, with the blackened wailing being particularly impressive on several songs.

Apart from the interesting black/death combo vocals, the elements that made me sit up and take notice were the song structures and tempos. Netherbird displays  some much appreciated musical diversity throughout Monument, with vicious black metal moments riding alongside quieter, introspective and tranquil segments with gothic overtones. While “White Noise Sky in Overdrive” comes after you with maximum evil and ill intent, “The Weight of Vapour” starts with forlorn piano and violin and whispered vocals very reminiscent of My Dying Bride before ramping up into a thrashing black metal onslaught. Likewise “Across the Chasm” effectively combines blackened thrash and slow piano interludes with eerie female vocals resonating in and out. Very importantly, Netherbird never allows the gothic elements to fruit up the core sound and leech out the brutality and ugliness. Apparently they know black metal with too much pomp and goth is as much fun as a dead otter.

The guitar work across Monument is generally well done and at times excellent. The black metal riffs are bitter, icy and effective, and the leads manage to be moody and emotional (with “White Noise Sky,” “The Weight of Vapour” and “In the Eyes of Time,” being the best examples). Likewise, the keyboards are effective and well placed to accentuate, without ever becoming too overbearing and watering things down. The production is clear and large, allowing for a sweeping, epic sound with an element of coldness, yet thankfully avoiding the dreaded overproduction syndrome.

Netherbird proves to be yet another quality Scandinavian black metal band that can take the core black metal aesthetic and tweak it just enough to bring the listener something new and interesting. Although these guys are pretty far from a household name in the metal community, this has all the earmarks of a band that can make some waves in the scene and draw some attention their way. I hope Sweden keeps churning out bands like this for a long, long time. Hail Sweden!

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