Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nachtfalke - Wotan's Return (2011)

Nachtfalke's sixth full-length album, Wotan's Return, was released by Christhunt Productions in 2011, four years after the band's previous effort. The lengthy time in-between records was enough to build a great deal of anticipation in some fans, while others probably assumed that the project was no more. Often, when so many years pass, musicians will come back with something quite inspired and worth the wait. Unfortunately, that is not quite the case with Wotan's Return, which is a mixed bag, of sorts. It is a good album, but not without a good handful of flaws.

The album begins, strangely, with a cover song. Nachtfalke's rendition of Bathory's "Shores in Flames" is not bad, sounding quite a bit like the original version from Hammerheart, but it is not all that remarkable. Moreover, it is very peculiar to open an album with a cover tune. All in all, this was just not a very good idea. It is no secret that Occulta Mors likes to include a Bathory track on each album, but its placement is completely wrong, not to mention the fact that Wotan's Return features two covers, not one.

This is followed by the title track, which maintains a bit of the gloominess of the first song, but in a different manner. This is a rather meandering affair, with harsh vocals and keyboards added in, along with acoustic bits and brief clean singing. It does not flow very well, and none of the riffs are interesting.

"Deep Into the Woods" is an instrumental track that begins with an acoustic passage. There are some sound effects that help bring the title of the song to life, as well. This is not the most impressive composition and it really feels incomplete, as if it was meant to have vocals but nothing could be figured out. The lead melodies are alright, but nothing all that memorable.

The album finally seems to build a little momentum with "Hyperborean Light", which is kind of a dismal song that moves along at a slower pace, with deeper vocals and a lot of repetition in the songwriting. Things shift during the latter half, taking on a melancholy tone that is emphasized by the tormented howling that appears near the end.

The music flows right into the next track, "After a Rain of Fire", which continues with the morose guitar riffs and miserable screams. As the song progresses, it takes on a slightly more epic feeling. It goes without saying that the Viking-era Bathory influence is fairly strong here, without sounding like a carbon-copy of any particular track. This is actually one of the highlights of the album, with an introspective lead melody and more tortured shrieks carrying the song to its conclusion.

"Autumn Leaves" begins with a mournful riff, maintaining the bleak vibe that characterized the previous tracks. While still mid-paced, this one is a little more lively and features some guitar-work, later in the song, that seems to channel Quorthon's spirit fairly well. The songwriting is pretty minimalist and primitive, utilizing only a couple riffs. In this case, repetition is probably a good thing, as there is no real need to attempt to do too much with this.

The final original song is "Asatru", which consists of more mid-paced riffs that hardly stray from the style employed throughout the rest of the record. However, after a couple minutes, things speed up and brief tremolo melodies appear. While Nachtfalke made use of fast riffs in the past, usually hearkening back to the old Moonblood material, this sounds completely different and bears no similarities to the previous band of Occulta Mors. These sections are short and do very little in the grand scheme of things, as the rest is more in line with the preceding songs.

This L.P. concludes with a cover of Bathory's "Call from the Grave", which seems like a strange choice. Up until this point, Nachtfalke had only covered songs from the band's Viking-era, while this one is taken from Under the Sign of the Black Mark. However, it is still a mid-paced song, so there is some level of consistency. It does not fit all that well with the rest of the material, though this record is plagued by a bit of inconsistency.

Wotan's Return is kind of lackluster, with only three or four decent songs to its credit. The two cover songs, as well as the overall arrangement of the tracks, do very little to help this haphazard endeavour. Occulta Mors should have put more effort into writing original material and structuring the record in such a way as to really get the most out of his compositions. This may still be pleasing to Nachtfalke fans, but it is kind of disappointing considering the length of time since the last record, as well as the fact that the bulk of the album seems like filler. Give it a chance, but do not let your expectations rise too high.