Ninkharsag – The Dread March of Solemn Gods

With a six-year gap between this and their debut, Ninkharsag had their fans chomping at the bit to hear a follow-up. With almost half a dozen shirt designs for pre-order bundles, a lead single arriving over a year in advance, and two vinyl pressings that have both already sold out, it’s clear that they really knew how to roll-out the album.

Whichever medium you choose, it’s clear from the first song (“Night Wrath”) that the band’s attention to detail extends past the packaging and merch, as listeners are treated to a quick slice of atmospheric foundation. Choral intonations, acoustic strings, a gong, the clopping of hooves, and the whinny of a horse come together before being broken by the blast of drums and hard-timbred guitar. It’s not until the title track, which comes immediately afterwards, that they introduce the vocal component, doing so with a roar of accelerated tempo to match the rasping tones. It’s a nice touch, one that not only sets up a ramping introduction for the album’s path, but that also provides more individual spotlighting on the musicians than would otherwise happen if they’d all jumped in at once.

All throughout the album, the music maintains a raging level of energy. The drums and guitar hold firm to their dominance of the songs from start to finish, but with enough creativity and punch driving them so that it rarely becomes stale. Also, moments like the coiling climax in “Under the Dead of Night”, or the vocals shifting from raw howls to a cleaner and more mournful counterpoint in “Lunar Hex; The Art of Mighty Lycanthropy”, all show the band’s willingness to flex their style while keeping the core firmly intact.

Though there are no dramatic changes of the tempo throughout the album, there’s enough maneuverability to keep it engaging. Top headbanger honors go to “The Necromanteion”, which pares down the density of the sound to focus on the big rhythms. All in all, it’s a highly focused album which executes its aims admirably. No wonder they’ve already sold through their entire run of vinyl, and half of the CDs, less than three weeks after initial release. Here’s to hoping there’s another run on the way. Something this good deserves  wider physical availability.

Ninkharsag – The Dread March of Solemn Gods
THE BOTTOM LINE
An impressive and cohesive black metal album, balancing modern and retro sensibilities to excellent effect
Reader Rating3 Votes
POSITIVES
Sharp song-writing
Attention to small details in the songs
Compelling riffs and rhythms
NEGATIVES
Not as much instrumental variety as the smart song-writing suggests the band is capable of
4.5
Gabriel
When he's not digesting cinema (preferably low-budget), wasting time online, or otherwise embarrassing himself, Gabriel can be found working his way through a stack of music to review and taking breaks from the crushing futility of life with the help of comedy. Involved in a number of short-lived musical projects, he now sticks to annual Halloween shows with Mexican Space Train.
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