Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nifelheim - Devil's Force (1998)

Devil's Force is the second release from Sweden's masters of Black/Speed Metal, Nifelheim. This album picks up from where their debut left off, the only noticeable difference being that the sound is slightly more raw than before. Being recorded in late 1997, this may have the distinction of being one of Jon Nödtveidt's final musical recordings, before going to prison, as he plays guitar on this album. In an old interview, Tyrant claimed that this album was the band's answer to Sodom's Obsessed By Cruelty. This would be their last album for Necropolis, as well as their last to include Demon on drums.

Nifelheim possesses the old spirit of 80s Black Metal, and it is easy to hear the influence of such bands as Venom, Bathory, Sodom, Tormentor and even Brazilian bands like Sarcofago and Vulcano. What sets Nifelheim apart is that there is also a bit of inspiration from Iron Maiden (their favorite band). They realized, early on, that it was impossible for them to make the same kind of music as Maiden, yet they still manage to mix in bits of NWOBHM melody, here and there.

"Deathstrike From Hell" begins the album with sinister thrash riffs and some morbid vocal effects. After a brief build-up, Nifelheim unleashes total blasphemy upon the listener. Some of the lead parts create a truly hellish atmosphere. About mid-way through, the speed gives way to somewhat slower thrash riffs (by comparison) and a great lead harmony. This song really sets the pace for the whole album.

More NWOBHM feeling can be found on the mini-epic, "Final Slaughter". This song is absolutely killer in all aspects. Hellbutcher's strained vocals sound possessed, as usual, and the raw production goes well with the old school riffs to give off a very old feeling. After a couple minutes, the song slows down. At this point, haunting melodies fill your head like the screams of the waking dead, crawling out of their graves. The riff around the 3:00 mark is absolutely brilliant. For someone that actually grew up with 80s metal, very few things are as satisfying as listening to a song such as this one. Within only a few minutes, Nifelheim manages to create something very memorable and epic. The ending is very reminiscent of old Slayer, which can never be a bad thing.

"Desecration of the Dead" is next and, despite the epic journey taken through the flames of Hell, there is no chance to rest. This song blasts forth with a merciless fury. Again, under two minutes into the song, one is obsessed by hauntingly eerie melodies that slither through the mind like a serpent. The ancient demons are certainly invoked on a song such as this.

The next song is "Demonic Evil", and it lives up to its title, from the opening moments. The band absolutely kills the listener as it almost becomes mind-shattering to believe that so many brilliant melodies and riffs could come from one band. Just when you think that one song was so great that the next one would have to be a disappointment or seem like filler, by comparison, they dispel such thoughts by producing more moments of pure genius.

On an album filled with great songs, "Satanic Mass" is still worthy of special mention as one of the best of the best. The vocals are total blasphemy and sound like an unholy creature screaming from blackened skies, as the lands below burn in raging hellfire. At this point, I wish that I was an expert in music theory so that it would be easier to more adequately describe the sheer brilliance (using that word a lot on this review) of this song. The riffs are nothing short of godly and the solos are incredible.

"Soldier of Satan" begins a bit slower than the previous songs. At this point, they would have to slow down for at least a few seconds so that the listener's heart does not explode. Yet a few seconds is all you get, as this picks up speed and is much like having broken glass forced down your throat as you are chained to a wall. Some time ago, I read that the playing on this album was extremely sloppy and difficult to discern. There's no telling what the hell they were listening to, but it certainly wasn't this album.

"Devil's Force" opens with riffs very similar to something found on Seven Churches, by Possessed, but only in the opening seconds. There are even moments that recall memories of Morbid Angel's Abominations of Desolation album. These, too, are very brief. This song is pretty straight-forward. The end features the same riff that started the song, accompanied by a brief solo.

The album concludes with the song "Hellish Blasphemy". The title would be very fitting to describe the entire album. In some strange sense, one can tell that this is the final song just by the feeling conveyed within. This was something that was very prevalent in the 80s; the last song of an album often felt like the ending of something, even if it wasn't some long, slow, epic work of dark art.

Devil's Force is highly recommended to anyone that appreciates Black/Speed Metal. If you have a fondness for the old 80s bands, then this is definitely for you. Nifelheim does well to carry on the black and hellish legacy of those who came before...