text: Jean Relapse
Era of Threnody
May 16th, 2017
Nargaroth is not a band that you have to introduce anymore. Ash, also known as Kanwulf, is a major controversial face in the black metal scene. He’s been accused of being egocentric, fascist and anything you can imagine. Despite this, he continued wandering in the scene, and this lasted from the late 90’s to nowadays, so we might say he didn’t really give a fuck. His discography is as ambivalent as the man’s image. Who doesn’t know songs such as Black Metal ist Krieg or The Day Burzum Killed Mayhem? On the other hand, who can say that they like every one of his albums? I wouldn’t bet you could find that person so easily.
As far as I’m concerned, I dropped Nargaroth long ago now. Their first French appearance (Lyon, 2009) was such a disappointment that I didn’t feel like listening to the band ever since. Thus, Era of Threnody is me coming back to Nargaroth. Needless to say I first listened to it with very low expectations, being biased from the start.
The albums starts with a quotation from the movie Space Station 76, an American comedy. Put aside this ‘what the hell‘ reference, the quotation fits perfectly and goes straight to the point. The album will deal with very personal subjects. Looking for oneself, for where one belongs and more generally for the purpose of life. This might sound pretty basic and dull for an experimented black metal listener, but trust me, this is not that easy as Ash has got quite a turbulent history. He even travelled as a homeless for years to find his true self. We all know that a convincing and authentic context leads to convincing and authentic emotions in music, especially in extreme music. Who can pretend to fake such deep emotions?
Certainly not Ash in this album. The melodies, the composition and the lyrics are above all sincere. For more than an hour, a truly melodic and passionate black metal is all that is delivered. I got caught off-guard as, as I said, my expectations were low and I immediately found flaws to the album. The major flaw, to me, is the preponderant presence of the vocals. This album was written heavy-hearted, and you can feel it, but it is detrimental to the musicality sometimes. Melodies need to express themselves, and vocals, that I love by the way, sometimes take everything over. Nonetheless, I found myself whistling riffs, humming melodies and feeling reached by Ash’s emotions, conveyed masterfully.
Songs often last between 6 and 9 minutes each, which has advantages and drawbacks. The advantages are that they are developed well, and nothing is rushed through. This allows Nargaroth to construct and deconstruct throughout each song. The drawback, that is the second and last flaw of the album in my opinion, is that some moments lack intensity and create lengthy parts. There is only one exception, quite surprising if any, called Love is a Dog from Hell. This song is short, punchy, rock’n’roll and even includes a solo. If it is surprising at first, this song is kindly welcomed as it lightens the album, which would be too compact and indigestible otherwise. The second grand gesture is the inclusion of the ‘whispers‘ and the ‘choir vocals‘ for which is credited Renata V. In songs such as Era of Threnody or My Eternal Grieg, Anguish Neveren, they are magisterial and delightful.
To conclude, I’d say that this album is an acquired taste. You can easily get annoyed by the excessive use of vocals or by your own bias, but you would miss hands down one the best albums of this year. Give it a listen, try to understand it, and if you can’t, just try harder.