Naglfar – Cerecloth Review

It was 2003. I was pursuing my degree in chemistry and Metal Maniacs was my monthly bible to the wonderful world of metal. I explored every genre in those days (not that I don’t now, but the approach is much different), trying to find what spoke to me and what didn’t. At that time, the pages of MM were glowing with a glossy black and white for the new Dimmu Borgir release, Death Cult Armageddon. Being a big fan of Emperor, I decided to plunge in and get Armageddon, as well as predecessor, Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. This led to a great exploration of symphonic or key-focused black metal. Next came Arcturus, The Kovenant, Limbonic Art, Cradle of Filth, and Old Man’s Child. What’s stuck with me from those days of exploration is that I still prefer simple key atmospheres in black metal. Like Emperor or earlier Dimmu Borgir. Though the symphonic elements of Misanthropia are magnificent, I prefer subtlety. So the black elements aren’t overpowered. That’s why I’ve always loved Naglfar and their subtle beauties: Vittra, Sheol, and Harvest.

These Swedes have been around a long time and, I’m sad to admit, I kinda gave up on them after 2007’s Harvest. Yet, here we are, some thirteen years later, with Naglfar‘s newest record plopped in my lap. Upon initial inspection, Cerecloth looks, feels, and smells like Naglfar. Former bassist, Kristoffer W. Olivius, is still at the mic, after replacing the mighty Jens Rydén on 2005’s Pariah. And, as it’s been since ’95’s Vittra, each instrument is as crucial as the next. The result is some of the strongest songwriting in the genre. Never groundbreaking and never meant to be, Naglfar is a true purveyor of that melodic black metal sound.

The title track opens the album in a hurry, bashing and smashing everything in its path. Like “A Sanguine Tide Unleashed,” the opener is a straightforward number that shows the band’s simplistic approach to charging, careening black metal. The followup track, though, is more recognizable as the true style of the band. “Horns” and closer “Last Breath of Yggdrasil” combine black riffage with melodic atmosphere. The tremolo picking of “Horns” dances around the rasping vocals, while an ominous black fog thickens from the ground up. The subtle key work breaks away and nifty guitar solos come to the front. The closer uses a calming mid-song lull to build speed to its finale. It’s a classic closer; combining every element from Cerecloth into one six-and-a-half-minute track. Then the chaos, with its addictive vocal arrangement, fades and a haunting key-mosphere is all that’s left.

Cerecloth‘s greatest character trait is its impressive guitar leads and solos. “Like Poison for the Soul” may open with a great bass intro, it’s the combination of almighty guitar work and Horna-meets-Gorgoroth melodics that make it masterful. While the melodies are more sorrowful than “Like Poison for the Soul,” the guitar presence of “The Dagger in Creation” is equally fantastic. This time using both guitars in unity for a clever, dual guitar solo.

As for sorrowful and heart-wrenching numbers—a characteristic style of the band and the main reason their best records are so balanced—”Necronaut” and “Vortex of Negativity” hold the title. The former is a sad piece that shows the band’s skill for creating emotional atmospheres as strong as any orchestral one. “Vortex of Negativity” is heavier than “Necronaut” but just as melancholic. The back-half, in particular, is a loaded gun of sorrowful guitar leads that crawl under your skin and infect you.

After a few listens of Cerecloth, the well-roundedness becomes clear. Rather than growing more melodic as it progresses, the different elements spread evenly throughout the album. I walked into this new record with the childish expectation that I won’t like it because it’s not Sheol. While correct—it is not Sheol—I’d be a fool for not liking Cerecloth. Along with the great track dispersion, which allows the album to relax and pulse with spontaneity, the Dan Swanö master is a real pleasure to listen to.1 Because I found the predecessor, Téras, so dull, I assumed the same fate for Cerecloth. Don’t make an ass out of yourself, as I did. Cerecloth is one of my favorite meloblack records of the year.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: naglfar.net | facebook.com/naglfarofficial
Releases Worldwide: May 8th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. The dual guitars of “The Dagger of Creation” are enough to prove the master’s worth.
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