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Nortt - "Galgenfrist" (CD)

Nortt - "Galgenfrist" CD cover image

"Galgenfrist" track listing:

1. Galgenfrist
2. Til Gravens Vi
3. Af Døde
4. Kaldet
5. Over Mit Leg
6. Havet Hinsides Havet
7. Hjemsøgt

Reviewed by on March 17, 2008

"solitude and darkness are required for an album as ostracized and depressive as this."

It's hard to not roll your eyes or utter an apathetic "meh" to the corpse-painted imagery of another one man black metal band. But hold on there skeptical masses for this is no ordinary northern blast beat assault. Emerging from the frosty hills of Denmark, Nortt the wizard of all things morbid comes bringing from his cauldron a noxious mixture of ambiance, funeral doom and black metal. Now we are talking!

Unlike other black/doom bands, say Forgotten Tomb, ambiance plays a major part in Nortt's third full length album "Galgenfrist." If sitting in a gloomy cave musing over death, listening to the subtle sounds and soaking in the atmosphere sounds like a picnic in the park to you, then this album could just be what you're looking for. Nortt's firm foot in the ambient camp gives "Galgenfrist" a backbone of solid eerie, spacial droning evident from the first track. If you're familiar with the American band Celestiial this will feel like home to you.

"Havet Hinsides Havet" would be my pick of the album, although, to be honest, the tracks blend together in a rather bleak procession of tortuously slow ambiance. There aren't any particularly stand out riffs or memorable passages with the whole album being a concise attempt to get across one continuous idea of a depressional emptiness. Not even the raspy, pained vocals of Nortt will be particularly stimulating for those who are fans on black metal. Difficult to judge, this is either the album's most serious flaw or simply part of its graven plan. Guitars buzz slowly through the droning fog with unmelodious lethargy with drums providing a particularly uneventful backdrop.

I have to admit, the scenario makes this album. The first time I gave it a listen was a beautiful day, the type where birds chirp and the world smiles upon you no matter what you do. Failure. The second time however was a deeper experience to say the least - home alone, no sound at all bar the depressive drone scream combo of a man possessed by death. Not an album to listen to taking a stroll in the park, solitude and darkness are required for an album as ostracized and depressive as this. When approaching Nortt, one must take the same care as when listening to Sunn O))), Ahab, or any other ambient-drenched band. If you rush in expecting riffs of any orthodox kind you're also going to be most disappointed. The bulk of this album is ultra-slow, hypnotic guitar meanderings drenched with drone and... to be honest there is not much more than that apart from empty space, which strangely enough should be exactly what you want to hear if "Galgenfrist" will appeal to you.

Much like people are often critical of abstract artists like Jackson Pollock it's all too easy to throw criticism at Nortt along the lines of "anyone could put together a few slow riffs on a guitar like that!" and much like Pollock's random paint splatterings you'd be half right. However, Nortt has clear separation from any pretender. The production on this album is down-right perfect for its philosophy. Distant and expansive, the album gives that perfect sense of solitude and space. Nortt himself is the other factor. Reading his outlook in the promo it is clear he is super serious about the amalgamation of doom and black metal and his vision is impressive in its own boldness.

"Galgenfrist" is a hard album to give a score because of its polarizing nature. On one hand, a group of people may hail it as an ambient masterpiece saluting all things dark and evil in an uncompromising vision of funeral doom. On the other hand, many would question the spartan nature of the vision in the first place, that being a whole album of ambiance dotted with riffs that simply blend into the shadowy background. Hence I would flat out not recommend this album to the majority of metal fans. However if you loved Sunn O)))'s "Black One," are at all a fan of Celestiial, or are tickled at the idea of an amalgamation of funeral doom Ahab style and black metal Xasthur style, make sure you check out this latest release by Nortt.

Highs: The depressive atmosphere that only droning funeral doom can create

Lows: A bleak and uneventful surrounding will alienate this release from the average metal fan

Bottom line: A focused vision of blackened funereal ambience for those with similar minds

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

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)