"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Nahvalr - "Nahvalr" (CD)

Nahvalr - "Nahvalr" CD cover image

"Nahvalr" track listing:

1. Chorus of Blasphemies (8:24)
2. Blood Flood (4:52)
3. There Isn't Anything (14:34)
4. Objectivity (4:08)
5. Swallower of Bile (8:21)
6. The Witch Box (7:06)
7. Let Them Eat Blood (8:30)
8. Black Elk Speaks, Chokes, and Dies (9:52)

Reviewed by on October 2, 2008

"Playing the entire album through is like an hour of increasingly boring foreplay that has no hope of ever reaching orgasm."

Nahvalr has taken an interesting approach to creating music with their self-titled debut album. Rather than writing songs and then getting together to record them, the brains behind the band had people send them clips of random sound effects or portions of other songs which were then heavily distorted and had repeating, chugging guitar riffs added to the background to give a black metal feel. The songs on the album transcend the idea of atmospheric music and instead go for nothing but atmosphere, which turns out to be too much of a good thing. Listening to “Nahvalr” isn’t so much taking a musical journey into the howling depths of the abyss, as it is sitting through an endless road trip with screaming infants in the back seat.

Opening song “Chorus of Blasphemies” spends its first two minutes playing a clip from the Art Bell radio show, in which the broadcaster explains that he is going to be playing an actual recording of the damned souls in hell screaming out their lamentations which was recorded by miners who dug too deep into the core of the earth. The clip is an interesting look at how disturbingly gullible humanity can be, but anyone not intimately familiar with the history of the ”hell noise” will be left either slightly baffled or thoroughly annoyed that it goes on for so long before the actual song starts. It may have been a self proclaimed warning that the album will be frightening or an attempt to make the sounds that are to come seem more disturbing, but it goes on for too long to really work.

In most albums the whispered voices just at the edge of hearing buried within sound effects or long and drawn out guitar riffs are there to build up to something greater, or to be a forbidding diversion to give the song more of a disquieting aura. Here these devices are the entirety of the music. Those overused horror sound effects that everyone and their dog has heard a million times on the internet finally all get put together in one place to serve as the backbone for an entire album, and it is just as tedious and dreary as that sounds like it would be. Songs such as the fourteen minute long “There Isn’t Anything” are supposed to draw the listener down into a ceaseless, all consuming despair with no hope of escaping its smothering clutches. Instead it will spur people into action and cause them to hit the skip button on their CD player to move on to something that isn’t so mind numbingly repetitive.

According to the album insert there are supposedly lyrics to some of the songs, but good luck trying to decipher them even when reading along. The vocals are all so distant and low in the mix that they never have the opportunity to induce dread or cause fear. It seems like they were meant to act as that scream heard off in the distance in a horror movie that first cues the unsuspecting victims that they are about to meet their ends in a particularly gruesome fashion, but instead it just sounds like a hazy and incoherent mumbling.

There are some fascinating little tidbits hidden within the deep muck every now and again, but none of them are interesting enough to even sustain the album, let alone make it worth repeat listens. Everything abruptly changes on the track “Black Elk Speaks, Chokes, and Dies.” The combination of well known sound effects with the static laden ambience of low quality black metal finally comes together in a compelling way, molding monks chanting in the background with moody drumming to create something that actually has a shot at speaking to the listener in a personal way. Unfortunately it is the last song on the album, so there isn’t any opportunity for any additional decent music to help wash away the stain of the earlier lackluster tracks.

“Nahvalr” might work well as background noise for a horror themed party or for teenagers who want to scare their parents into thinking they are attempting to summon an eldritch horror from the great beyond, but anyone who actually wants to listen to music will be severely disappointed. Playing the entire album through is like an hour of increasingly boring foreplay that has no hope of ever reaching orgasm.

Highs: The final track is interesting and worth hearing

Lows: Massively repetitive, boring, and has frustratingly bad production

Bottom line: If you aren’t wearing a high end pair of headphones, prepare to hear nothing but repetitive static and noise. If you are wearing high end headphones, prepare to hear repetitive static and noise a little more clearly.

Rated 1.5 out of 5 skulls
1.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)