Monday, December 5, 2011

Netherbird - Abysmal Allure (EP) (2011)

Sometimes the best way to create music is to unshackle yourself from one genre or another, and simply let the music flow through you. Such is the case with Netherbird, the pride of Stockholm, Sweden. Rather than trying to constrict themselves into the mold of black metal, this current five piece made a decision to let the music decide for itself. A handful of albums and EPs later, it seems to be a winning formula. On their latest release, "Abysmal Allure," they take a black metal influence, add a pinch of thrash, a sprinkle of death, and a hint of doom. What you are left with is something uniquely Netherbird.

A short interlude, titled "Myosotis Scorpioides," is the first impression given, with simple guitar riffs and the ringing of a bell in the distance. But as quickly as the bell rings, it is drown out by the thrashing guitars of the title track, "Abysmal Allure." There is no mistaking the roots of black metal here, from the rapid double bass pedaling to the lightning fast kicks and snares. Gone are the days of lo-fidelity recording, with Netherbird choosing to go with a more updated sound. The vocals are certainly reminiscent of old school black metal acts, but with a more deathly growl incorporated for effect. Each word can be made out with crystal clarity, something that can banish the ill conceived notion that metal lacks lyrical quality. The breakdown portion seems a drop in tempo, but no reduction in aggression. The bass line shines through, jolted at times by drum fills that may surprise you. Even the melody that flows in and out is a change from the norm, showing that in the blackest of black, a light can always shine.

The sound of a child's music box echos in the air, with "Swedish Sadness (Sorrow's My Vessel)" showing off the more symphonic side of the band. Orchestrated strings and synthesizers accompany chanting voices and a drum march. The tickling of keys provides a light melody just below the surface, a top layer that is consumed by the coarse scream of angst. What may seem to be a simple layering of instruments plays out like a more complex one, with drums and guitars twisting and turning into a double helix of melody and morose. While this may be considered to be the "softer side," it is a heavy emotionally as one can find in the blackened world. But for a true black metal outburst, look no further than the final track, "Born Defiant." The guitars moves up and down the scales quickly, bookended by screeching vocals that would make the likes of Burzum and Gallhammer proud. But nestled in to the purely superficial sound is a song that is well written and well intentioned. The balance between the instrumentation and vocals is key, with the bass coming through as clearly and vibrantly as the drums. Underneath the guise of a traditional black metal riff fest, is an intricate piece of metal craftsmanship.

With only three tracks and a short intro to get from Point A to Point B, Netherbird don't have a whole lot of time to catch your ear. But what they accomplish in the span of seventeen glorious minutes is impressive, to say the least. They have taken that age old black metal formula, and added an extra dash of creativity, leaving the finished product with a noticeable shine. When it comes time for a full length effort, it may be a challenge to keep this pace and momentum going, but "Abysmal Allure" has certainly started the ball rolling.


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