Nekrovault – Totenzug: Festering Peregrination Review

The shuffling of feet and dragging of chains. Abyssal ambiance and droning feedback. Yep—it’s a death-doom album intro. I’m not as well versed in the genre as some of my colleagues, but I’m familiar enough to recognize the sense of heavy dread Nekrovault is aiming for in the opening moments of their debut LP, Totenzug: Festering Peregrination. It’s a weightier atmosphere than that of their Obscure EP from two years back, a record which was defined by insanely catchy death metal riffs, as well as respectable doom passages. Ideally, Totenzug would be an evolution of Nekrovault’s sound that offered a better blending of genres, and it fulfills that expectation admirably. Yet the band’s reluctance to fully embrace the most interesting corners of their sound leaves them scraping the edge of greatness.

Best described as a marriage of Runemagick’s death doom and Incantation’s distinct swampiness, Totenzug sees Nekrovault gaining a more confident handle on their stylistic blending. Totenzug is a dense-ass record, dominated by abyss-deep riffage and cavernous tones, but its willingness to embrace bombast and technicality places it above the average genre effort. Nekrovault’s sudden pivots into blastbeat territory in tracks like “Sepulkrator” are uncommonly exhilarating for the style, made all the more satisfying by the deliberate slow builds across tracks often falling in the eight-minute range. Even then, a handful of relatively short tracks (like the refreshingly straightforward jam “Pallid Eyes”) add welcome structural variety, and at only 43 minutes, Totenzug is devoid of anything that could be called filler.

As consistently good as Totenzug is, it doesn’t feel like a full realization of Nekrovault’s immense potential. In general, it offers an impressively well-rounded sound for a debut LP, but the riffs never match the addictive, catchy nature as the best performances from the Obscure EP. That absurd yet intoxicating blend of party death metal and oppressive gloom may elude Totenzug, but the album does hint at different avenues for future growth with closing track “Eremitorium.” This nine-minute behemoth explores a deeply atmospheric and melodic mindset and echoes the rock n’ roll influences present in the most recent Chapel of Disease album, all without sacrificing its pummeling death metal core. This track alone very nearly bumped my score up by half a point, and if every track had shouldered a similarly strong musical identity, Totenzug could have been a contender for death metal record of the year.

Although Nekrovault has yet to nail down an identity that can truly be called their own, Totenzug is still a damn solid genre effort, one made all the more enjoyable by impactful production. Aside from a slightly off-balance mix, I wouldn’t change a thing about the tones on offer. The guitars are grimy and rumbly without sacrificing a bit of clarity, the gutturals are hit hard with just the right balance of ghostly reverb, and the drums feel deep and impactful despite the mix relegating them to an almost background presence. This record expertly crafts a dense atmosphere without sacrificing the blunt force impact expected from death metal; it sounds as ridiculously heavy as it does legitimately foreboding.

I have no doubt in my mind that I’ve never been as close to bumping up a review score as I am now with Totenzug: Festering Peregrination. It’s a truly effective and engaging example of the death-doom style, one which I imagine plays even more favorably to someone who lives and dies by the genre than to me, a casual fan. Yet despite their present lack of a recognizable identity, there are flashes of brilliance here which ensure I’ll be keeping an eye on Nekrovault’s trajectory. From Sulphur Aeon to Chapel of Disease, the Ván Records death metal lineup is packed with innovative acts, and I’m intensely curious to hear whether Nekrovault will capitalize on their potential to craft something similarly singular. Until then, this debut is still absolutely worth a listen for death metal fans, including those as picky as me.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Ván Records Official | Bandcamp
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 27th, 2020

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