Released Wednesday 30 March 2022.
For fans of Rotting Christ, Carach Angren, Emperor, Diabolical Masquerade
Nazgûl (translated as ‘ringwraith’ from the black speech of Mordor) are fictional characters in the writings of JRR Tolkien. They are the nine men who had succumbed to Sauron by influence of the One Ring and were transformed into his deathless servants.
Nazgul Rising, however, are a symphonic black metal band from Rome, Italy, formed in 2001 by Lord Trevius, Borius the King and Trvkvlentvs inspired by their common interest in aggressive black metal based upon the Nordic style.
While I listen to quite a lot of black metal—Diabolical Masquerade, for example, are one of my favourite bands—I generally don’t listen to any symphonic black metal. I often find that genre to be neither one thing nor another, a tired and clichéd pastiche of symphonic music that does quite blend with its darker black metal roots. But Nazgul Rising seem to have got the balance right for me.
“Seed of the serpent” (track 1) opens the album with an ominously eerie effect, what sounds like something between a clavichord, harpsichord and a prepared piano, overlaid with a chorus of voices. It is a fabulous beginning. But then the band switches into a wall of drums, noise and jangling crash of cymbals with growling vocals. My heart sank a little believing that I knew what was coming, just another mediocre black metal-by-numbers song. But, thankfully, I was wrong. This track has dynamics. There are areas of light amidst the gloom. Symphonic elements lift and complement the heavy guitars and drums, which relent from their metronomic barrage at times to create a steady heartbeat throughout the song.
And so the album continues its conversation between noise and melody, darkness and light, angular guitars and soothing violins, harsh vocals and soft choruses. “Adversarial light” (track 2) features a beautiful outro that soars and glides the song to its fading conclusion. “War comes from heaven” (track 3) opens with a bar of what sounds like a snippet of a modern, symphonic orchestra and it is glorious, putting me very much in mind of Diabolical Masquerade’s Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2007).
A few other, stand-out moments:
“Lord of the wildwood” (track 7) also features an atmospheric opening, like a scene from The Lord of the Rings of Orcs doing things despicable in Mordor.
“Nemesis within” (track 8) takes off at breakneck speed before slamming the listening with an unexpected, grinding, sawing riff whose time signature I’ve still not quite managed to work out. It is unexpected and unsettling within the context of this aggressive, mournful song.
The well-named “Evilwind” (track 11) has perhaps the most overtly symphonic and choral opening. It puts me mind of Metallica’s S&M concerts, a fabulous fusion of traditional and darkly modern.
And closing track “From the depth of Hades” (track 12) also builds as it weaves a dark and twisted melody around pounding drums. When it vocals begin, guttural and deep, it really does sound like the gates to Hades have been opened and the forces of darkness are pouring out. What a magnificent end to a remarkable album.
Having been drawn in by the extraordinary art on the cover and the slight disappointment that I could actually read the band logo—do they not understand that there is a black metal rule that says that band names must be illegible on album covers?!—I didn’t hold much expectation for this album. “Oh, here we go,” I thought, “another tired symphonic black metal album!” I could not have been more wrong.
This album drew me in more and more on each subsequent listen. The music is dark, mournful and intriguing. The meld between symphony and metal is seamless. They compliment one another, play off each other, and tear into the listener’s soul.
This is the album that has restored my faith in symphonic black metal, and it is wonderful.
Review score: %
MDPR contacted me inviting me to preview Nazgul Rising’s then forthcoming album, thank you. I have no connections to either MDPR or Nazgul Rising. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review which is pretty cool. Many thanks to MDPR, and to Nazgul Rising for continuing to create fresh, exciting metal.