Nazghor – Seventh Secular Crusade Review

It’s funny what sticks with you. Back in 2017, I was a humble reader of this site when a cool review of a band I’d never heard of caught my eye. It was Infernal Aphorism, the sixth album of Swedish black metallers, Nazghor. Although our esteemed Dr. Wvrm gave it a good score, it seemed to come and go without much fanfare. Except in my car, that is. For some reason, I couldn’t stop listening to it. Banger after melodic black metal banger. You know when you’re listening to an album and you think, “Ok, just one more song” and you keep going until you get to the end? That was Infernal Aphorism for me. It was underrated then (it’s a Contrite Metal Guy waiting to happen), and it’s underrated now. I eagerly awaited the follow-up, which given Nazghor’s prolific output (6 albums in 5 years at that stage), surely wasn’t far away. Except… it was. The band went quiet for 5 years (an eternity in Nazghor time). But now they’re back with Seventh Secular Crusade. The band members are strongly touting it as the best material of their career. Well put a stick up my butt and call me a taffy apple – I’m in!

Nazghor play old school black metal with the melody turned way up. Think classic Dissection mixed with the hyperactivity of Sacramentum. Since 2016’s Death’s Withered Chants, Nazghor have followed an ever-more melodic road without sacrificing their trve brand of old school satanism. Seventh Secular Crusade walks the path ever deeper without sounding like it has abandoned its black metal roots. The new tweaks include embracing some of the post-metal and symphonic elements that the band flirted with on Infernal Aphorism. Nazghor have also listened to the critique that their albums were too long. While previous efforts clocked in at over an hour, Seventh Secular Crusade is a lean, punchy 40 minutes.

The quality of songwriting is stellar throughout. “Massive Omen Paradox,” comes storming out of the gates, highlighting a classic Nazghor strength: the swirling tremolos centered around a fiendishly catchy central melody, powered by frantic, but never intrusive, blast beats. It’s epic and forceful, with enough variation to avoid the wearying sense of repetition. Importantly, atmoblack this ain’t. Seventh Secular Crusade is so stuffed with riffs, it resembles a mutant American turkey at Thanksgiving. Just listen to the driving guitars on “Sons of Shadows,” or the thrash of “A Crown Soaked in Blood.” Nazghor don’t stay static and continue to build on their eclectic styles by incorporating choral flourishes (“Primordial Lineage”) and even post-metal (“Seventh Secular Crusade”). It’s all seamlessly played by experienced musicians. The drumming and vocals, in particular, are righteous—carrying real oomph when so many would be content phoning it in.

The only issue with Seventh Secular Crusade is that it struggles at times to live up to its magnificent opener. The material that follows is strong (“Fulminating Fire” offers a Kvaen-like “Fire!” chorus that’s tons of fun; “A Crown Soaked Blood” has a melodic, thrashy momentum) but isn’t as immediately dynamic. There is also a bit of a lull in the middle before the final two (very strong) tracks kick into gear. For all the discipline shown in trimming the fat, I’m just not convinced that these songs—while massive and fun—are superior to Infernal Aphorism’s.

I’ve felt let down by “traditional” black metal this year. The best stuff has either been modern and progressive (Kardashev, An Abstract Illusion) or funky and fused (White Ward, Zeal & Ardor). Very few classic black metal albums have made me want to listen to them again the minute they ended. Seventh Secular Crusade bucks the trend. Frankly, it’s the album I wanted Kvaen’s (overrated) The Great Below to be. Given the complete lack of buzz for this, I may (again) be the only one championing its cause. I don’t care. Somewhere out there, some newish black metal fan is hopefully gonna listen to this one, and, like me 5 years ago, they won’t be able to stop…

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self Release
Released Worldwide: November 25th, 2022

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