Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Nifelheim - Envoy of Lucifer (2007)


Envoy of Lucifer is the fourth full-length from Sweden's Nifelheim. Like many others, I've been waiting for the follow-up to Servants of Darkness for several years. At certain points, I had wondered if the band had hung it up, as seven years is a long time to go between albums.

From the very beginning of "Infernal Flame of Destruction" I knew that this was a classic Nifelheim album. With each release, this band seems to get better and better. These guys show that, unlike their contemporaries, they have a very good background in metal as a whole. Their love of Iron Maiden has been well documented. Surely, this has influenced their sense of melody as I'd say this album owes as much to Maiden as it does to Bathory. The old-school Black Metal that Nifelheim are known for has never been stronger.

The first two tracks are strong and fast-paced, and do well to set the tone for the album. However, there is much more to look forward to than blinding speed and killer solos. "Open the Gates of Damnation" is the first stand-out track (excluding the opener, which is really great as well). This song begins somewhat fast, but progresses very nicely and the old feeling is captured very well in the chorus of the song. I'm always amazed at their ability to write such awesome riffs that belong on an 80s release. Years ago, when I first heard Nifelheim, I thought I'd stumbled upon some rare band from the 80s until learning the truth.

Of course, one would expect it to be difficult to follow up such a good song with something of equal quality. Most bands have a few decent songs, separated by filler. Not in this case. Nifelheim continue forward with "Claws of Death" which really slows things down a bit, after the initial speed in the beginning, and creates a very morbid atmosphere. The tempo goes back and forth and the melodies are incredible. This is truly the legacy of Bathory and Tormentor.

Just when it seems that the album has hit an early peak, "Storm of the Reaper" gives all the justification necessary for taking such a lengthy absence in between albums. The main riff of the song is brilliant and the arrangement could not be better. This proves to be yet another high point for the album. The following songs continue on, each easily identifiable from the rest. The intro to "Raging Flames" has Maiden written all over it.

"No More Life" begins with an eerie riff, and a sense of dread; of impending doom, fills the night. As usual, the song includes excellent riffs and melodies which wouldn't be out of place on an old Bathory or Maiden album. This song is yet another highlight of the album, and is a perfect was to close out an album which is destined to be regarded as a classic in the years to come.

All in all, I cannot complain about this album. The production suits it just fine. The vocals are excellent and the riffs are of high quality. This is how Black Metal should be. Many bands spring up after hearing a random album from the second wave and they move on to assume that they know all there is to know, yet their music will always betray their ignorance. Nifelheim's roots are in the old 80s bands, and it shows through very clearly. This is the only way it should be.

"This album is not only music. It is a ritual. Listen and receive..."