REVIEWED: Noctule - 'Wretched Abyss'
The pandemic has seen music choked in so many ways, especially live, and more than a few bands have certainly suffered and even disbanded. All this makes the triumphant nature of this release all the more satisfying.
Serena Cherry, the lifesblood behind this release, has grasped her opportunity splendidly over the last two years. In 2020 she, along with her Svalbard bandmates, put out what is probably the most vital, raw and passionate hardcore album put on tape for quite some time. For some, this would be something they would sit back on and soak up the plaudits for some time, but instead Serena has channelled her creative fire into a solo black metal project that deserves just as much attention.
The album is an unashamed love letter to the computer game ‘Skyrim’ and anyone who is familiar with the game will definitely appreciate the way this album really captures the game’s aesthetic and overall atmosphere. The echoey production gives it a sound that could very easily have been recorded in one of the game’s many vast dwarven ruins. All the song titles are lovingly lifted from the game yet don’t feel awkwardly placed (except maybe ‘Elven Sword’ but the song itself more than makes up for it).
Musically, this goes beyond an obvious black metal release and is awash with lush guitar harmonies and a canny eye for melody. There is a definite nod to her work in Svalbard here too with the fearless refusal to be bound by genre rules and stereotypes. The track ‘Evenaar’ is a glowing example of this, ebbing and flowing throughout with some of the most spellbinding riffwork and beautifully balancing raw and visceral vocals with delicate and enchanting harmonies.
The album isn’t flawless throughout, however. ‘Winterhold’, for example, whilst a solid enough song, doesn’t have the same wonderfully woven feel as much of the rest of the album. But this feels a lot like nit-picking at this juncture.
What we have as a total package however is an album that totally delivers on its mission statement. It may not hit as hard immediately as the Svalbard album did last year, but it is an extremely finely crafted piece of art in its own right that should have as long-lasting an impact as the game from which it takes its influence.
'Wretched Abyss' is out now via Church Road