Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nachtfalke - Land of Frost (2003)

Land of Frost, the third offering from Germany's Nachtfalke, was released in Christhunt Productions in December 2003. On this record, Occult Mors continues the work that truly began on his previous effort while taking the Bathory-worship to a new extreme. As with Doomed to Die, there is still a decent amount of material that carries on the dark legacy of Moonblood, but the overall atmosphere of the album is less dismal and more frozen and epic.

It begins with "The Windlords", which bursts forth at full speed, after a lengthy intro. The guitar tone sounds somewhat similar to Abyssic Hate, though the music here is vastly superior. This track does well to start things out at a furious pace, and really works well within the overall context of the album. The vocals are impassioned and suit the vibe of the music, perfectly. The lyrics are quite similar to what one would expect from Immortal, and the similarities with that Norwegian band do not end there.

"Ragnarök" is the longest song on the album, clocking in at nine and a half minutes. The introductory riffs are reminiscent of the material from Hammerheart, though the mood changes rather abruptly. The arrangement is brilliant and the miserable feeling is almost overwhelming. This song sounds somewhat like "Einherjer (Doomed to Die)", from the previous album, yet it is even more melancholic. The woeful vocals add a sense of despair and pure misery to the atmosphere, aiding the guitar riffs in creating a sense of loss and mourning. It makes sense that it bears similarities to the aforementioned track, based on the lyrical theme that is present in both. While there is a faster section, later on, the song is predominantly mid-paced and possesses a very epic feeling.

The next song is "Berserker", starting out with a Bathory-inspired riff but soon transitioning to pure Immortal worship. To his credit, Occulta Mors does a very good job at incorporating this style into the overall tapestry of Land of Frost. This really sounds like a lost track from Battles in the North, as even the vocal performance is more in the vein of Abbath's style. The guitar riffs, drumming patterns and even the clean guitar passage all scream Immortal. Most importantly, it is done well.

"Immortal Home" is next and this is the real highlight of the record. It was also the first Nachtfalke song that I heard, so there is a bit of sentimentality attached as well. The riffs are completely derivative of Bathory and it is done beautifully. If not for the harsh vocals, this could easily be mistaken for one of Quorthon's hymns. It even includes the backing choir. This mid-paced epic creates an atmosphere that is majestic and strangely sad as well. It evokes an odd feeling, almost like being homesick for a place that does not exist; or at least, not anymore.

Things speed up with "Men from North", utilizing cold tremolo riffs and yet sounding very little like Moonblood, as one might expect. There are times when the bass guitar is heard more than usual, and the backing choir returns for the mid-paced refrain. This song is fairly simple, alternating between the fast and slower riffs and keeping up the epic feeling that bleeds forth from this album.

The final track is "Land of Frost", which is strange upon first listen due to the clean vocals and high-pitched scream, at the beginning. It seems much more upbeat and thrashy, with harsh vocals dominating most of the track. Though it takes a listen or to to get used to, this song is actually very good and adds yet another dimension to the album.

Land of Frost is a great record that manages to surpass Doomed to Die, if only slightly, in terms of songwriting and execution. It offers more variation and the epic nature of the album is far beyond what its predecessor was capable of. The fact that some of the songs sound so similar to other bands does not detract from the overall experience and the skill in integrating those styles into Nachtfalke's music is exceptional. Buy this.