For a band only in their fifth year of existence, Nazghor sure have a lot of albums. Since forming in Uppsala, Sweden in 2012, the outfit has churned out record after Satan-loving record. Infernal Aphorism represents their sixth such offering of black metal now best served chilled. Though initially operating in a callous, misanthropic style, Nazghor embraced a full-blown melodic bent with 2016’s Death’s Withered Chants. This turn of events, coupled with increased attention to production standards, resulted in their strongest material to date. Infernal Aphorism is the logical next step in Nazghor‘s evolution: an exploration of their newfound abilities and a test of their endurance.
Following the oblique spoken word of “Opus Profanus,” “Malignant Possession” immediately reveals itself deadly. The track wields frigid malevolence with both hands, trem-picking through icy riffs, each better than the last. Though guitarists Angst and Armageddor center the song around one of the best riffs they’ve ever written, they smartly avoid beating the direction into the ground. Their Dissection ice-storm climaxes elevate their surroundings, but the duo still develops secondary elements to bolster the track’s six-and-a-half minutes. It’s an element that Deströyer 666-infused “Decretion at Eschaton” could use. The track rips with all requisite fervor but lacks the variety in composition to keep it interesting. “The Darkness of Eternity” suffers no such shortcoming. Its airy opening may evoke whiffs of Ghost Bath, but don’t let the first minute fool you: eternity is indeed very, very dark. Its charging melodic textures should earn Nazghor a warm, fart-prepped seat at the meloblack lunch table alongside sonic compatriots like Thulcandra and Watain.
Infernal Aphorism is undoubtedly a strong album. It is also rather long. In fact, if Nazghor have a calling card, it’s their inability to pare their material into lengths that make sense. For a band that churns out as much material as they do, I’m dumbfounded that they manage to find the riffs to fill out albums that regularly top an hour. Unfortunately, the sixty-minute Infernal Aphorism shares this deficiency. The first few times through the fade to black-close of seventh-slated “Ephemeral Hunger,” I was content. Right riffs, right length, rig – wait, that’s not the end? That close was so perfect. What do you mean there’s still twenty-five minutes left? By the finish of the s/t closer’s Emperor-tinged ten minutes, I’ve soured a bit. That’s not to say the material following “Ephemeral Hunger” nosedives. Any of the three tracks post-“Hunger” could slot into the central listing — hell, piano-infused “Absence of Light” is one of the more interesting tracks on the album. However, this on-going trend of indulgent lengths keeps Infernal Aphorism from greatness. The quality of the songs never truly degrades, but dammit guys, save a riff for next year.
For my money, Cosmarul turns in one of my favorite drum performances of the year. I will admit that I am a sucker for certain beats, typically those with an Inferno (Behemoth) level of detail paid to hi-hat ticks and gorgeous crashes, and Cosmarul’s combinations scratch that itch. Performances are quite capable across the board in fact, though I wish vocalist Nehkrid would put some variety into his low end-less Grutle Kjellson (Enslaved).The production passes the bass test, while the guitars’ frozen tones service the variety needed for twin highlights “The Darkness of Eternity” and “Rite of Repugnant Fury.” The latter shows “Decretion at Eschaton” how to handle the ripper modality without getting stale, buoyed by Cosmarul’s beats and a triumphant melody.
I won’t pretend that seeing that Non Serviam tag, combined with Season of Mist on distribution, wasn’t the only reason I grabbed Nazghor. As the sun flees winter’s grasp and everything goes black, those labels will once again become beacons in the coming months. However, this introduction to Nazghor is a welcome one. The quintet is heating up, with each passing release offering new signs of refinement. Infernal Aphorism is the product of that incremental development, a rough gem hewed from a frost-hardened mountain only through persistence and sheer force of will. If they can trim the wheat from the chaff, Nazghor‘s inevitable 2018 entry will be worth keeping an eye out for.