Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nifelheim - Nifelheim (1995)

Nifelheim's debut L.P. was recorded in Studio Fredman, in the second week of December 1994. This album features John Zwetsloot, of Dissection, and the cover artwork was done by Necrolord. Not discovering this band until the release of Servants of Darkness, it took some time to acquire this album as it was difficult to find. To say that it was well worth the wait would be a major understatement.

Nifelheim begins with "The Devastation". From the first moments, one can feel the old demons being awakened. The production is slightly off, as it is a little thicker than on their other albums, almost with a Death Metal sound to the percussion. This, somewhat, thicker sound adds some bit of a doomy feeling to the riffs. The guitars are thin and possess the old school Black Metal feeling. The vocals are very unrestrained and are similar to Quorthon's work on the early Bathory albums. This brilliant Black/Speed Metal is continued on "Unholy Death".

"Possessed By Evil" shows that, truly, Nifelheim is consumed with the essence of 80s Black Metal, such as Venom, Bathory, Sodom, Hellhammer, et cetera. Yet one thing that really sets this band apart is the Iron Maiden influence that rears its head from time to time. These guys absolutely worship Maiden, and you will find many harmonies and so on, mixed throughout their albums, that display this fact.

This band does not simply rely on blast beats and tremolo riffs to carry their songs all the way through. As mentioned, they really have much more in common with the First Wave bands than their own peers. "Sodomizer" begins with a slower and more ominous tone, until speeding into a frenzy of blasphemy. Hellbutcher's vocals really do sound possessed and, sometimes, has a feeling of sinister desperation. The one scream, about halfway through, is bloodcurdling. This song is one of the more epic pieces of the album, featuring great solos and variations in tempo. A dark atmosphere is created in the latter half of the song. This is absolutely perfect in all ways. Some bands go for a 'retro' sound and try to imitate those that came before them. Nifelheim simply embodies this spirit and it comes out, effortlessly, on their albums.

"Satanic Sacrifice" begins with a feeling of doom and dread, accentuated by Helbutcher's tortured scream. In no time, the gates of Hell burst wide open as the song reaches full speed and flames consume all in their path. Strange that some have called this music 'mindless noise', when each song is easily identifiable and contains many memorable riffs. It would appear that some people just didn't bother to listen to the album or, maybe, previewed the first few seconds of each song, at best. People like that don't deserve to listen to such great music anyway.

The epic feeling continues on "Storm of Satan's Fire". This isn't the same sort of 'epic' that one would expect from Viking-era Bathory, for example, but the word is applicable, nonetheless. You really get the feeling of being dragged down to the very depths of Hell. The solos are, as usual, incredibly suitable for this music and the melodies are haunting. This is dripping with old school Black Metal feeling, like blood from a slashed throat.

The album concludes with "Witchfuck". This song features different tempos, from full-on speed to very old school sort of rhythms. At no point during this album does the band run out of steam of become redundant or boring. There is nothing uninspired about this classic debut release. In a sea of mediocre bands, Nifelheim stands tall as one of the elite.