WORMWOOD – Nattarvet – (Album Review)

Wormwood - Nattarvet

Background:

Nattarvet is the second full-length album by Swedish melodic black metal band Wormwood. The band is a 4-piece but on the album, they have 3 extra vocalists along with a violinist. It tells the story of the famine that occurred in Sweden back in 1867 which affected people for around 2 years. The winter stayed on and there was still snow on the ground and icy temperatures in June destroying any crops. People in the hills/mountains away out in the country were left to fend for themselves and as a result, many perished with some eventually taking their own lives.

The album captures the mood of desperation along with the little bits of hope people clung to. There are 7 songs with the shortest being 5 minutes 51 and the longest 11 mins 50. Although tagged under “black metal” his also has elements of folk or Viking music along with progressive rock, especially in the time changes and the guitar work throughout the piece.

The Songs reviewed:

So onto the songs themselves, starting with opener “Av Lie Och Borda” which has a droning start (a bit like the warm-up on the bagpipes) which is a slow build-up until the main riff kicks in. Although it sounds dark, there is a folk element to it. Drummer D Johansson plays well throughout and some of his fills are superb, for instance around the minute and a half in this. He can be thunderous and fast but knows how to add touches that give flavor to a musical piece. The track is often angry, especially in the vocals from singer Nine who merges that anger with anguish and despair.

There are moments where it quietens and is more reflective giving a little room or space to breathe. “I Bottenlos Arjen” opens with keys in a form of a lament with violinist Martin Bjorklund giving it a folky vibe. The mid-section has an elegant guitar sound rebuilding on the melody before it returns to its black metal heart.

One of my favorite tracks is “Arctic Light” which has a frantic start, fast and heavy which of course changes through the song with some very subtle moments in the brutality. On the quieter moments, I really like the guitar sound and in fact the song borders on progressive rock at points. “The Achromatic Road” is slightly more mid-tempo and has a strong guitar solo from T Rydsheim (or possibly J Engstrom who is also credited with doing bass and keyboards).  

Wormwood

Sunnas Hadanfard” has much more of a folk or Viking feel to it especially on the guitar sound early on in the song. Again the drums are absolutely thunderous at the right times, yet it still has a lighter air about it, possibly due to the guitar melody. There are moments that reminded me of both Pink Floyd and Dire Straits strangely enough but is still somehow a black metal heavy as fuck track!

The fiddle comes into its own on the penultimate track “Tvehunger” adding so much to the melody which the guitar carries along most of the way. The song itself is one of the most intense and brutal on the album yet still has moments of reflection.

The final track, the longest song on the album is simply epic! “The Isolationist” opens with a gentle and lovely refrain which hangs around for a while building slowly, there is no hurry, there is a story being told and the listener is in on that journey. It is haunting and delicate. The main melody continues even in the heavier parts of the track. When it changes it does so into a bleak riff where the words are screamed in pain and anguish.

It is more spoken word than singing, to be honest, but the single words used are isolated in themselves fitting in with the title and theme of the story. It is quite incessant and repetitive like the lives of those left behind to fend for themselves.

The longest and sweetest guitar solo is on this song and it harks to early Pink Floyd (thinking “Echoes” or “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”) in its beauty. It builds in a way that as a listener you want it to keep on going when it ends.  The mix of abject horror despair anger with mellow reflective moments is spot on. The last cry of “I will never leave these icebound grounds, I will never leave” tears at the heart of the listener. Superb stuff.

Final Thoughts:

Wormwood have created an excellent album which blends a number of styles whilst remaining a black metal one. There is plenty of heavy and brutal passages for fans of the genre but at the same time, there are enough progressive and melodic parts to be of interest to more general rock or metal fans. The album pulled me in and captured me like a good book and I learned some history as well. That is also a bit of a bonus. Good stuff all round.

Album out now on Black Lodge Records.

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