Nordjevel – Gnavhòl Review

All the way back in March 2019, which feels like a lifetime ago now—it actually is for my firstborn shark pup, who arrived that month, and that perhaps explains why I feel like I’ve aged so much in the interim—Norwegian black metal quartet Nordjevel impressed Grymm with sophomore effort Necrogensis. Snagging a 3.5 from the Grymmster, Nordjevel brought icy riffs and Norwegian fury to his Floridian home but it was not a record completely free from issues and had a notably stronger second half, suffering also from a little bit of bloat and/or lack of self-editing. With a line-up that has held steady since Necrogenesis and features former members of Dark Funeral, 1349 (drummer, Dominator), Morbid Angel and Zyklon (guitarist Destructhor), can Nordjevel now up their consistency, tighten their songwriting and take things to the next level on third album Gnavhòl?

Well, Nordjevel certainly hasn’t attempted to dramatically reinvent itself as an entity. Centered around scalpel-sharp tremolos, frenetic blasts and the snarling, gurgling rasp of vocalist Doedsadmiral, Nordjevel is pitch-black black metal, with an almost immediately identifiable Scandinavian edge to it. Reminding me of Dimmu Borgir circa-Death Cult Armageddon (and minus the orchestra), Gnavhòl has a rampaging grandeur to it that borders on the symphonic. In the guitars, there are also traces of the most recent effort from Khold to be found in the tempest, which gradually builds as the record progresses.

Indeed, just like Necrogenesis, this is an album that gathers strength as it goes on, with Nordjevel really hitting its stride on the title track, just shy of halfway into through the 54-minute runtime. There, as on the next track, the excellent “Antichrist Flesh,” Destructhor’s guitars take on a slightly more melodic mien and are given a bit more room to breathe, with the trem picking occasionally giving way to some more interesting leads that wouldn’t be totally out of place on a Zyklon, or indeed Morbid Angel, record. That is not to suggest this is anything other than what it is, harsh and furious black metal but it feels like the band gets more willing to cut loose, the longer Gnavhòl goes on.

And go on the album does. For all the good work that Nordjevel does here—with the delicate, cascading opening to “Spores of Gnosis” and the venomous “Endritual” other highlights—there is no escaping the fact that this album feels long. Despite the songwriting getting more expansive toward the back end, Gnavhòl feels repetitive and like the same basic core is repeated again and again, without enough standout moments or hooks to really capture me or carry the length. This sense is certainly not helped by the drumming. While Dominator is technically very good, he relies far too much on metronomically precise blasts until we reach the likes of “Endritual”. This, when coupled with a slightly soulless production job, which gives the drums a clinical and sterile feel, makes for a somewhat exhausting listen.  

Gnavhòl is still a good album but it is a slight step back from Necrogenesis, while managing to repeat the same mistakes that were made with that earlier record. While I would always rather an album got better, rather than worse, as it progresses, it’s a shame to see Nordjevel again delivering an album of uneven quality, with a notably stronger second half. The issue of bloat and self-editing remains, emphasized by the comparatively few standout moments. I enjoyed my time with Gnavhòl well enough and, for fans of well-executed black metal in the early Dimmu Borgir mold, there is solid, if not overly memorable, material here. Probably the less said about that hideously cliched band pic the better.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Indie Recordings
Websites: nordjevel.bandcamp.com | nordjevel.com | facebook.com/nordjevelofficial
Releases Worldwide: September 23rd, 2022

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