Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Troll - Trollstorm over Nidingjuv (1995)

As my introduction to the band, Troll's debut album left a bad taste in my mouth. Drep de kristne did not make a good impression, at all. Even worse, I knew of Nagash's involvement in horrible bands like Dimmu Borgir and Covenant, so I completely wrote this project off, for quite some time. Years later, I was urged to check out the first demo from this Norwegian Black Metal act, being assured that it was better than what I'd previously heard. So, with some hesitancy, I gave a listen to the 1995 demo, Trollstorm over Nidingjuv

The first minute or so of "Når natten endelig er her" only confirmed my concern that this was to be a waste of time. The synth intro isn't nearly as bad as the goth-like spoken word part that accompanies it. Nonetheless, from the moment that the guitars erupt from the relative silence, the entire complexion of the release changes. The first thing worth noting is the superior quality, compared to the first L.P. This was clearly recorded in a proper studio, instead of in a garage (though how a high school kid could afford this, I cannot say). Rather than the weak and soft sound of Drep de kristne, here the guitar tone is sharp and helps to give a harsher feel to the music. Even the mid-paced section of the title track maintains a respectable level of strength, compared to the utterly limp feeling of the material Troll offered up the following year. 

Overall, the material is much more solid than on the full-length. However, Nagash certainly takes some liberties with the songwriting, heavily influenced by his predecessors in the Norwegian scene. In particular, Satyricon and Darkthrone seem to have been favourites of his. Of course, no one really comes into a Norwegian Black Metal release from the mid-'90s expecting too much originality; the template had pretty much been established by '92/'93. That said, Nagash basically lifted riffs, note-by-note, with no shame whatsoever. While the Satyricon influence is quite obvious from the intro and the second half of the title track, the riff around the middle of "Over daudens kolde mark" is really leaning more toward plagiarism. Elsewhere, the inspirations are a bit more general, with cold tremolo riffs that call to mind classic Mayhem, as well as the vocals that are reminiscent of Ihsahn's early work with Emperor. The compositions are fairly straightforward, possessing rather natural transitions that flow in a natural manner (as opposed to Satyr's back and forth, manic songwriting). The CD version, released a year later, contains the most damning evidence of plagiarism. On "I et hedensk land", this guy just outright lifted Darkthrone riffs (from "Slottet i det fjerne") and passed them off as his own. Sure, it sounds good, but that is because Fenriz was a master of creating dark and dreary Black Metal riffs, back then. 

In the end, Trollstorm over Nidingjuv stands as the best release to ever come from Troll, by far. If one can overlook the riff thievery (and to be fair, the worst offense was only a bonus track on the re-release, not included on the original tape), this isn't a bad recording. It's pretty standard Norwegian Black Metal from this period, which was filled with a lot of kids that wanted to follow in the footsteps of the masters. It's certainly worth fifteen minutes of your time. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Thornium - North Storms of the Bestial Goatsign (1994)

My introduction to Thornium came in the form of a Maxell cassette sent to me by a penpal from Latvia, many years ago. Side A featured Nifelheim from Throne of Ahaz, while on Side B was Thornium's debut album, Dominions of the Eclipse. I remember the latter was so long that it didn't even fit in its entirety, and certainly failed to impress in the same manner as Throne of Ahaz. It was only some years later that my opinion of the band became more favourable, upon hearing the 1994 demo North Storms of the Bestial Goatsign

Musically, this is pure northern darkness. The guitar riffs are cold and dismal, just dripping with the typical mid-90s Black Metal feeling. "In the Depths of Northern Darkness" is equal parts fast tremolo melodies and mid-paced gloom that allows the music to breathe a bit. The title track picks up from where the first one left off, before speeding up and utlizing a riff reminscent of classic Mayhem. All throughout, Typheus' hateful vocals add to the overall atmosphere. His voice is mostly dry and raspy, with bits of near-hysterical shrieking, and really calls to mind Abbath's performance on Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism. The subtle vocal changes help to give life to the songs, as do the variations in tempo. It's all very straightforward and primitive, yet still possessing ambition and feeling. The droning riffs that emerge in the later part of "North Storms of the Bestial Goatsign" are haunting and memorable, with melodies of a similar style to be found on "Min Vandring Till Mörkrets Furste". 

The production is fairly good for a Black Metal demo from this period. Everything is mixed rather well, with the guitars up front as they should be. The drumming is still audible, just not dominating the sound as often happens. The vocals are high enough to be clearly deciphered, without drowning out the rest. It does seem as if there was some clean guitar being used at the beginning of the tape, but it didn't come through very clearly, which was probably for the best. 

Thornium's first offering is nothing original, just traditional Black Metal in the northern style that was really coming into its own around this time. The only real complaint here is that it's pretty short. Though, sometimes, it is better to get in and get out and not waste time on useless filler or mediocre tracks that bog things down. All three songs are of the same good quality, making North Storms of the Bestial Goatsign very much worth tracking down and listening to. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Fimbul - Vinterland (1995)

Fimbul was a short-lived Black Metal project from Norway. The sole band member, Ramn, released the first demo, Vinterland, in February 1995. Recorded on a four-track, this lo-fi tape bears similarities to other demos of this period, such as Thule's Der vinterstormene raste and Urgehal's Ferd

Vinterland is rather brief, clocking in at under fifteen minutes. Aside from the intro and outro, there are only two real songs on here, of which "I de norske skoger" is the real highlight. The songwriting is rather straightforward and primitive. The tremolo melodies are memorable and somewhat haunting, reminiscent of something from Transilvanian Hunger. The vocals possess a grim feeling and the drums are pretty basic. "Nattevandring" has a little more variation in the pacing, though the riffs aren't as interesting. However, around the halfway mark things slow down as a mournful melody emerges for a few moments. It is unfortunate that this soon transitions to another less-engaging riff. The outro, "Stillhet (...Norge)", reminds one of "Snø Og Granskog", from Panzerfaust

All in all, Vinterland is a decent little demo, but nothing special. Out of the four tracks, only "I de norske skoger" manages to stand out. That said, it is worth a listen for fans of the mid-90s Norwegian Black Metal sound.