Buying an album based on the cover art alone has always been a huge gamble, as I’m sure we all know. Despite most of the random purchases we make being better used for target practice, we have been able to come away with pure gold every once in a while. This is exactly how I stumbled onto Naglfar. In April of 2003 I was browsing through my local record store on “media day,” meaning the day when new albums, DVDs, and video games would be released to the public, and I happened to find their album, “Sheol.” I had never heard of Naglfar before that, but “Sheol“‘s cover art really drew me in, and little did I know that beast of melodic black metal was going to introduce me to a whole new world. Since that day I have been a loyal Naglfar fan, and on the eve of the release of their sixth full-length, “Téras,” I am lucky enough to be dissecting every piece of it for you.
“Téras” begins with a two minute musical introduction with a dreary and slow beat to it, which transcends into the black metal that we all know and love in ‘Pale Horse.’ One thing that immediately comes to mind is that the straight-up black metal seems to be more upfront than in previous releases with the help of some melodic leads put over them. However, even though “Téras” has some good moments, it tends to be schizophrenic when it comes to the overall song-writing quality.
The first two tracks come strong, but ‘III: Death Dimension Phantasma’ is a very weak track that lacks in the catchy hooks or black metal brutality that Naglfar is known for. While the beginning of ‘The Monolith’ is wonderfully crafted and engaging, it gets fairly predictable until about the middle of the song, where they break it up and once again rely on the slower tempo. Passages like this can be done well and Naglfar has done just that in the past, but there is nothing else to make me want to listen to the rest of the song besides the beginning. The same can be said about the next two tracks, ‘An Extension Of His Arm And Will’ and ‘Bring Out Your Dead.’ Honestly, that Monty Python sketch is the perfect visual metaphor for “Téras” because while I know their was still music playing, my first instinct was to just to ignore it the majority of the time as the music kept trying to get me to acknowledge its presence with its fleeting cries.
“Téras” doesn’t pick up steam until ‘Come Perdition’ comes up and brings back some wonderful melodic speed with them. The epic interlude at the half-point drew me in, and once the rest of the band joins in I can feel that original Naglfar magic happening. ‘Invoc(H)ate’ is probably the strongest track on this album because it’s aggressive with its sharp melodies and makes you focus on everything that is being thrown at you. The last song, ‘The Dying Flame Of Existence,’ is a perfect representation of when I alluded to Naglfar being able to pull off slower tempos very well.
Unfortunately, those three tracks come a bit too late for “Téras” to be saved as a whole. An overwhelming amount of the riffs felt either rushed or rehashed in some form. Dirk Verbeuren (Scarve, Soilwork) was the session drummer for “Téras,” and he normally does fantastic work on whatever he is playing on, but it really felt like Naglfar didn’t want him doing anything too “out there” with most of the music. Because of those two debilitating factors “Téras” suffered majorly, but at least Kristoffer’s vocals sounded really good throughout the album.
Naglfar is more than capable of creating memorable melodic black metal, but “Téras” is not where you will find it. There is not much that will keep you completely drawn into the album other than the last three tracks, but the middle of the album is pretty abysmal and forgettable. At this rate if you’re looking for some really good melodic black metal in this new year I would check out Hellsaw’s latest release instead, as they and Naglfar are very similar.