Written By: Hell3
Reaching the fourth decade of living can be a somewhat stressing time in anyone’s life. Yourself, friends and family start to be affected by an almost insurmountable amount of maladies of body and mind. One may be what could only be defined as chronic musical disappointment. Warning sides include hearing promises of bringing back the sound of a nostalgic past, and disappointment with the actual delivery. And believe me, there can only be so many broken promises until you start eyeing every band making such assertions with cautious suspicion. Ninkharsag is one such band, and they’ve allegedly eschewed the Liturgy-like trappings of the ego and the siren chants from the Oregonian Cascades and decided to ride the aesthetics and ethos of the mythical Second Wave of Norwegian Black Metal into this new millennium. Now, before you start moaning and clicking away looking for the next Jörn approved slab of musical wankery and orbs, let me ask you, what was the last black metal record you thoroughly enjoyed? Are you one of those who believe trve black metal can only be crafted in the Scandinavian mountains with instruments made of damp wood and recorded into a tin bucket during a full moon in between the years 1991 and 1998? Then boy, do these Liverpool chaps have a black-as-charcoal surprise for you!
Knowing nothing about this band, I was briefly shocked when I clicked play, wondering if I mixed up my playlist with some obscure Absu release. I mean, you would believe it was Prospector himself snarling at you almost from the get go, without so much as a warning nor any nansy pansy atmospheric intro. Make no mistake though, Ninkharsag will eliminate any confusion you may have at this point. There’s enough Emperor, Mayhem and Dissection worship to nibble on, but while the nods to the past are evident, Ninkharsag is clearly not satisfied to merely stand in their shoulders. From here, Ninkharsag skips the pleasantries and engages in blazing hostilities for the next 21 minutes and leaves you roughly spent and wondering why you never heard of the band before.
With a total running time of just over 31 minutes, there’s still enough riffery to tide you over for the rest of the year, and “The Sicarii” and “Pastoralis Praeeminentiae” showcase some wicked basslines to get your noodle working. There’s some blackened thrashing not unlike the best work of the aforementioned Absu, along with modern guitar work reminiscent of Ludicra at their fiercest on “Dawn of the Age of the Aquarius.”
No song overstays its welcome but each is rife with musical proficiency and the songs possess really solid structures with nice builds, proper climaxes and it all resolves itself so quickly that it left this reviewer a bit dizzy.
Evaluating all this leaves me in a bit of a pickle. I’m loathe to sound like a sycophant by pouring my heart and soul into praise mode for this slab of second wave worship, and perhaps it should be panned for its unoriginality. But the thing is, if we are to believe the bylines, the whole purpose of the album was to bring back the primal strength and rawness of those bygone times. It seems dastardly to punish them for doing exactly what they set out to do with such flying colors at that.
Quality music aside, the production is an issue. Even if it’s good enough to give each instrument its own time to shine, it would be so much better if it was less loud and gave more breathing room to the music.
So having lived long enough to become a musical pessimist with new releases that set lofty goals and make promises of nostalgia, I’ll admit Ninkharsag embodies the nourishing nature of their namesake Babylonian goddess while providing a fix for your classic black metal cravings. They have the potential to become one of the more interesting young acts in black metal scene, and that’s far more than I was expecting from my first review here at AMG [Don’t worry, we have plenty of metalcore and slamcore for next time. – Steel Druhm].