Nyrst – Orsök Review

My last review took us to Finland to meet the mighty Bythos. This time we’ll head to another region on our quest north through Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Our destination? Iceland. Alongside stalwarts Misþyrming and Svartidauði, the newly conceived Nyrst likes its black metal as cold as the Arctic. In some cases, even more so than their countrymen. Now, let’s not begin the argument of who’s better or worse—not yet, anyway. For now, let’s talk about the obvious: Nyrst’s debut record Orsök is one of the iciest records of the year. It’s stark and punishing, haunting and melodic. It combines that Icelandic quality with the blacker-than-black shades of Mayhem. On paper, it’ll be the proper soundtrack to our current state of apocalypse. But, now, let’s see if Orsök is any good.

To start, Orsök is a crisp forty-minute record with only six songs. You’ve got everything from a calming, two-minute, mid-album intermission to a bombastic builder that clocks in at ten. As one can imagine, it’s the kind of record that requires attention, as well as a few spins to experience the nuances. Orsök isn’t an album of groundbreaking innovations to the black metal sound. Neither is it a reinvention. It’s a barebones disc meant to capture the chilliness of the far north.

And what better way to begin than with the frigid “Æðri verur.” Dripping of the ugliness of Mayhem, the opening number sets off on a nine-minute trek through snow and ice. Like a biting wind that feels forty degrees colder than what the thermometer says, the atmosphere of “Æðri verur” digs deep. Thanks, in a big way, to the distant rasps, growls, screams, and desperate “cleans.” There’re no twists or turns in “Æðri verur.” It’s a straightforward representation of what’s coming next.

Of the tracks that stand out the most—as far as vocal diversity goes—”Orsök” and closer “Turnar í fjarska” are the best. The title track is rich with black metal melody, shapeshifting away from the constant barrage of the opener. With each passing minute, the swell of cold abandonment becomes more real and more frightening. But the closer takes it even further. After cutting a path through frozen ground, icicle-decorated brush, and snow-kissed pine, the destructive nature of the song comes to a halt. In its stead, slow-moving clean guitars begin a new ascension to the track’s climactic conclusion. A conclusion thick with melody; pushed headfirst into a sinister choral chant. It delivers a feeling of apprehension as you come to the end of this journey and find something you didn’t expect.

Like Svartidauði’s Revelations of the Red Sword, Orsök is a compact record with long, drawn-out songs. Unlike Revelations, though, Orsök has moments of predictability that make some of these songs feel… well, too drawn out. While the ten-minute “Hvísl hinna holdlausu” is filled to the gills with riff and mood changes, as well as every flavor of Snæbjörn’s throat-shredding contributions, it has some repetitiveness to it that pulls at the pace of the record. Thankfully, the closer swoops in and ends the disc on a high note.

Though, in fact, there isn’t anything new on Orsök that you haven’t heard before, it’s put together quite well. It keeps me entertained and each listen draws me closer to its cold, black heart. As I’ve said before, this is due in part to the vocals of the album. The other is the mix. By now, you should be able to see the DR score below these words, and your eyebrows are probably arched. It’s rare for me to find a lo-fi recording that I’d dare say “sounds good.” But Orsök does. The album may be a simple, old-school approach to black metal but the ease on the ears is, alone, worth the journey.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dark Essence Records
Websites: nyrst.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/nyrst
Releases Worldwide: April 24th, 2020

« »