Teloch is one busy dude. When he’s not busy touring with Myrkur or writing and playing guitar for Mayhem, the Norwegian guitarist juggles his seemingly-limitless time between NunFuckRitual, The Konsortium, and a handful of other bands. One of these bands happens to be Nidingr. It has been five long years since Greatest of Deceivers terrorized our eardrums, and the time is right for some fresh-out-of-the-oven blasphemy. Armed with a new bassist, Nidingr is back with their fourth album, The High Heat Licks Against Heaven. I wanted icy-cold black metal with unrelenting savagery, and for the most part, High Heat satisfies.
Right off the bat, “Hangagud” blasts forth, showing that Nidingr haven’t remained complacent in their absence. Øyvind Myrvoll mixes up his drumming in the song’s second half but mostly retains a mid-tempo blast throughout. Teloch’s icy tremolo riffs and upwards chord strums still send chills. Cpt. Estrella Grasa still sounds maniacal, as he rasps, coughs, and phlegms his words with venomous intent. New bassist SIR performs a commendable job of lurking within all the chaos. The song is over at just a hair over two and a half minutes, and already they grabbed my attention.
And with some exception, High Heat does very little to deviate from a successful formula. “The Ballad of Hamther” blasts and grooves some impressive fills by Myrvoll and backing vocals by Destructhor (Myrkskog, ex-Morbid Angel). Teloch’s time with Mayhem rubs off in album highlight “On Dead Body Shore,” hooking the listener without losing one ounce of ferocity or intensity. When the band does throw curveballs, High Heat reveals an intriguing snapshot of what the band is capable of next. Closer “Naglfar Is Loosed” comes very close to doom metal territory, complete with some ethereal vocals by Myrkur in the chorus. “Ash Yggdrasil” builds an impressive atmosphere, blanketed by Garm’s (Ulver) chants and the expert use of minimalism. But none of these surprises are as shocking as “Gleipnir,” which combines their trademark black metal with tinges of trip-hop. Strangely, it works remarkably well, building tension and fear while still retaining the band’s trademark frigid atmosphere.
What doesn’t work well is the production. Yes, I’m aware this is black metal and no, I shouldn’t be heading into it expecting a huge swath of dynamics. That said, I shouldn’t be expecting to pop ibuprofen halfway into the album’s length. “Heimdalargaldr” suffers the worst from it, as the drums sound flat and the guitars wash out when they go into tremolo mode. That said, despite the score below, the bass does have a presence, even if it’s not necessarily felt. The other qualms I have with High Heat is the lack of self-editing. “Heimdalargaldr” and “The Ballad of Hamther” feel longer than necessary, and that feeling detracts instead of enhancing.
But don’t let those remarks prevent you from checking out The High Heat Licks Against Heaven. The album contains solid black metal, and the moments of experimentation, few as they are, offer a tantalizing glimpse of what may come. As much as I enjoy Teloch’s songwriting in Mayhem, I’m hoping it won’t be another five years until the next Nidingr album. Painful as it is at times, High Heat shines.