REVIEWED: Naglfar - 'Cerecloth'

When Naglfar mastermind Kristoffer Olivius first set about laying the dusky, deliciously visceral foundations for what would eventually become this post-apocalyptic epic of an album, who could have possibly anticipated the catastrophic turn of events that would follow a mere two years later? But despite that which concrete, indisputable fact must logically dictate, there’s a nonetheless eerie timeliness about the unveiling of this darkly prophetic body of work, as if certain cosmic energies were already beginning to align long before COVID-19 began ravaging humanity from the inside out. Indeed, it seems that every conceivable inch of this complex and violently lacerating body of work was all but purpose-built for the uncommonly bleak new century in which we find ourselves.

 

With its elegantly entwined lines of snaking distortion and tortured, putrefying screams that palpably reek of the grave, it seems only fitting that eighth opus ‘Cerecloth’ should source its title from that of the winding sheet famously known for enrobing the bodies of the deceased. Wrapped up in this richly all-encompassing symbol of ruin and decay, a cursory glance at the sweeping, exquisitely ornate brush-strokes adorning its cover give no small indication of the equally remarkable calibre of audio contained within. And what an exhilarating, thoroughly ghoulish pleasure it is to unravel...

 

All raggedly abrasive tremolo, madly accelerating hyperblasts and bloodcurdling screams, electrifying opener ‘Cerecloth’ leaves the listener joyously breathless with adrenaline from the get-go. A brutally gratifying statement of intent indeed. But despite its searing extremes of aggression, there’s no mistaking the meticulous complexity of design that figures equally prominently in this compositionally intricate long-player. Here, every gnarly, tautly manipulated accent of tremolo audibly bristles with scalpel-keen precision as sinewy layerings of guitar flood the senses with coldly harrowing atmospherics. Add to that a standard of production that contributes both crystalline clarity and rich, blackly cacophonous resonance to the mix, and the sum of these meticulously arranged parts is nothing short of breathtaking.   

 

Extending and progressing its atmospheric sensibilities still further, blackly absorbing single ‘Vortex of Negativity’ is gloriously awash with apocalyptic horror, its inky, torturously elongated lines of fretwork displaying impeccable placement in amongst the track’s craggily visceral lashings of aggression. Elsewhere, ‘Cry of the Seraphim’s’ tangled wealth of searing, lusciously melodic guitar accents entwine and coalesce with a deathly intensity that instantly recalls the brimstone-scorched majesty of Belphegor. And while the overriding aesthetic of ‘Cerecloth’ is decidedly second wave in flavour, there’s no shortage of inventive deviations from the genre, with doom-laden standout ‘Necronaut’ revelling in intensely melancholic, Paradise Lost-tinged melodic trappings.

 

And finally, we’re left to linger and luxuriate in the deathly, nimbly orchestrated harmonies of ‘Last Breath of Yggdrasil’ that, like the most exquisitely ethereal of gossamer-fine spider webs, lure and entice us in with grimly inexorable magnetism. With its ornate instrumental flourishes and grandiose layerings of guitar adding stirringly epic intensity alongside a brutalising array of uncompromisingly extreme elements, it’s arguably the most compositionally arresting facet of this wondrously apocalyptic slab. Indeed, as utterly harrowing and horrific as our ill-fated present circumstances may be, ‘Cerecloth’ is a richly illustrative testament to the sort of creative brilliance that only true, unadulterated darkness is capable of breeding: a perversely beautiful, black-hearted progeny born of pestilence, horror and despair.   

 

'Cerecloth' is out now on Century Media    

 

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