Atmospheric Black Metal that heavily draws upon pagan mythology and naturalistic spiritualism is surely at an height these days. Thanks to the “New Wave of USBM” and its figureheads like Wolves In The Throne Room or Ash Borer the idea of bringing nature-related themes and their ancient pagan outgrowths was re-imported to the European scene. Not that all these ideas and concepts didn’t already exist on the old continent from early on, but the strong tendencies towards these contents in the latter years might have been heavily influenced by the US American scene.
Fyrnd, the sole member of the German Black Metal outfit FYRNASK, probably isn’t influenced so much by American bands – which after all did not reinvent the wheel anyway. But the contentual and soundwise similarities to newer USBM are just too big to ignore. Of course this is no valuation whatsoever, if you read a few reviews on this blog you’ll quickly realize that the author has quite some love for USBM to share.
Of course, when talking about the content matter, there surely are more or less obvious differences between FYRNASK its US American counterparts. Whereas the latter often bear upon the ideas and myths of the Native Americans or even Greek and Middle Eastern philosophies (Fell Voices for example), FYRNASK strongly refers to Norse mythology – a fact that’s not exactly far-fetched for a Black Metal band but in its meticulousness and profound understanding is indeed very self-sufficient. It’s easy to draw a line directly to the Norwegian bands of the Second Wave, which probably left a more obvious impact in FYRNASK’s work than current US acts. Bands like Hades (Almighty), Ulver or maybe Darkthrone provided the blueprint Eldir Nótt is based on – but the complexity and devotion of this album is something you can’t develop by merely copying something. There’s something way deeper in FYRNASK’s music. Something dark and strong that attracts all your attention. Eldir Nótt is not just another Black Metal record. It’s a journey through the subconscious recollections of a time long bygone.
The album opens with an introduction that’s reminiscent of solemn, forgotten rituals to worship the Gods of old. Chimes, cymbals, arcanely chants and later the buzz of an electric guitar build up to a first peak – the beginning of Vigil. From very early on FYRNASK leaves no doubt that Eldir Nótt is a Black Metal record. The first one and a half minutes of Vigil are coined by a continuous blast-beat, followed by a short break that feels like deep inhaling before the blasting sets in again. About three minutes into the song FYRNASK pause: Tribal percussion and deep chanting give way to another intensification that lasts for roughly four minutes and leads to another wave of pummeling blast-beats and severe riffage. The finale of Vigil surprises with a sad melody played with a flute. The passage to another world is fulfilled.
The third track Jarðeldr takes its time. More Drone than Black Metal at the beginning the song comes to life not until minute 2:45. Again there’s the hypnotic combination of riff and blast-beat that sucks you in deeper and deeper the longer you listen. Beautiful guitar lines along the way evoke images of endless forests in your head until the song goes back to Drone-mode that depicts the fury of the old Gods as well as their power to create. No need to mention that the vocals switch from fierce screaming to imposing roaring. In general the vocal performance of Fyrnd is nothing but impressive, as he’s able to switch easily to all kinds of different styles without sounding off the track or anxious. Everything he does sounds right in its place and absolutely cogent.
The constant ebb and flow of moods, volumes and music is without a doubt the biggest strength of Eldir Nótt. No matter if FYRNASK employs the harsh full-swing of primitive Black Metal, the oozing heaviness of Drone or the elemental fascination of Neo Folk, every single note fits perfectly in its place. The result of course isn’t some kind of half-done patchwork but a very cohesive, coherent piece of art. The production contributes a lot to this – the sound is very well balanced and natural, giving the music an eerie feeling of vitality that’s absolutely endearing.
It’s impossible to highlight a single track of Eldir Nótt. The lengthy, drony exploration of Jarðeldr is just as captivating as the blatant, aggressive riffage of Saltrian (which even reminds of the late Thorns at times). It’s the interplay of all the different elements and tracks that produce the greatness of Eldir Nótt – a record that definitely lives of the balancing of powers between atmosphere and aggressiveness.
The lyrics are very elaborate and unearthy. They could have been written during the 19th century Romantic period, with their strong references to a personalized nature and an all-mantling darkness. At least that’s to state about the German lyrics, there are also lyrics in Old Norse of which the author of these lines unfortunately isn’t capable of. But surely these are no less profound and beautiful.
On top of the outstanding musical content comes the excellent packaging of the double LP. The cover, made of some kind of natural paper, features an embossed printing. The artwork is the work of Benjamin A. Vierling and David D’Andrea. Inside one finds not only the two 12”s but also a poster with a stellar, additional artwork. Eldir Nótt is even nominated for the Best Art Vinyl prize 2013, an award honoring the finest record artwork (other nominees are Daft Punk, Babyshambles or Queens of the Stone Age for example…).
As I wrote elsewhere FYRNASK’s Eldir Nótt is definitely among the best Black Metal records of 2013 – if not on top of them all. Without stepping into specious waters or serving any trends and hypes this album simply proves how diverse, thrilling and powerful Black Metal still can be.