September 18, 2008 | | 3.5

Nahvalr, Nahvalr

The self-titled debut release from Nahvalr is probably something you’ve never encountered before. Sure, the music may resemble something you’ve heard in the past (think Xasthur or Burzum), but the premise behind the band is unprecedented. Featuring any number of a dozen members during any one song, this release is the first open-sourced black metal entity.

To take an excerpt from the label’s own description, the music on this disc is “…the result of many different people, working simultaneously and in complete ignorance of one another’s work.” What does this mean for you and your ears? The eight tracks on this disc are dense, atmospheric, dark and chaotic in nature, yet consistent across the album’s duration, making for a desolate soundscape of raw, textured black metal.

If there is a downfall to this (and most every other ambient black metal album), it’s that the songs begin to take on a similar sound. While each track has it’s own moments of uniqueness, even those are not far from each other in the overall feel of their counterparts on this album.

Chorus Of Blasphemes
The opening track starts with an extended two minute long sound clip that acts as a disclaimer for the album. Once the music comes in, it’s dense and foreboding. Static and noise fill the air as ebbing waves of noise and layered vocals spill from the speakers. The very nature of the sounds emanating from the CD player is epic and experimental.

Blood Flood
After the first eight minutes of the album “Blood Flood” comes in with a more doomy feel as it opens up. Distant, layered vocals come in just before the one minute mark. This one creates visions of a dark, desolate landscape that is the thing of nightmares. It ends with an extended silence before transitioning to the next song.

There Isn’t Anything
“There Isn’t Anything” is a monster of a track, weighing in at 14 and a half minutes in length. A single bass tone starts the track off as textures and guitar reverb fade in from the blackest of voids. This epic song is a slowly building cacophony that features dense textures, layered vocal whisperings from the beyond. There’s an interesting death march feel to the beat around the four minute mark.

Thick static and guitar reverb open up “Objectivity” with a mass of churning chaos. The vocal noise that joins the industrial strength noise is dark and brings thoughts of some pagan ceremony to mind. There’s actually a bit more of an actual drum beat that peaks out from behind the smothering curtain of noise and texture.

Swallower Of Bile
If there’s one thing I hate about a big hangover is the bile that’s expelled from your system long after everything else has been emptied from your stomach. That shit is nasty. Oddly enough, this track doesn’t make me think of bile in any way. Its lighter, more airy start is a marked change from the previous four tracks. The din of noise gets more dense and darker as the track progresses along its eight minute journey into hell.

The Witch Box
The sounds of an angel choir fill the air as this one starts off, but are quickly swallowed by the hellish fires of storming guitar noise and static. This one is a chugging beast of a song that has moments of melancholy and evil intermixed throughout.

Let Them Eat Blood
A dark tone starts off “Let Them Eat Blood” as thick static thunders in the distance. With a more structured, melancholy feel, this one builds with more choir like vocals that chant and sing amongst the rumbling evil that surrounds them. The track ends softly after eight plus minutes of pulsing textures and vocals.

Black Elk Speaks, Chokes, And Dies
The final song on this self-titled debut builds very slowly from a silent start. The guitars and bleak-as-fuck, distant vocals don’t come in until the three minute mark, but when they do, you know there’s only one direction that they will take you — deep into the darkest, churning depths of despair.

~ ~ ~

The idea behind this one is truly intriguing. To have several dozen artists working apart from one another and then combining their individual parts into one cohesive album had to have been a daunting challenge. While the songs on Nahvalr tend to have a similar tone and sound, there are moments that separate them from one another that are memorable and unique. Considering how badly this album could have come out sounding, it’s actual presence is impressive and should be in any black metal fan’s library.

Favorite Tracks:
Pretty much all of them

Additional Notes: