Naglfar – Cerecloth – Album Review

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Artist: Naglfar

Album Title: Cerecloth

Label: Century Media

Date of Release: 8 May 2020

Naglfar are one of the very first wave of black metal bands that I discovered back when I first found out about the genre in the mid-90s. It was thanks to their song, ‘Enslave The Astral Fortress’, which was the opening cut of the Blackend compilation ‘The Black Metal Compilation Volume 2’ released in 1997. I have been a reasonably loyal admirer of the Swedes since then and so it is a nice thing to report that, after an eight year hiatus, Umeå’s blackest sons return with album number seven, entitled ‘Cerecloth’.

The first thing to report is that the extended break has not led to a radical departure in the Naglfar approach or anything. If you were a fan back in 2012 when they released ‘Téras’, you’ll still be a fan after hearing ‘Cerecloth’. However, what is clear from the outset is that this is a great-sounding record. It was produced by the band’s very own guitarist, Marcus Norman at Wolf’s Lair Studio, whilst the mastering duties were performed by the legendary Dan Swanö at Unisound. There is a crispness to the material that I like, as well as plenty of clarity without removing that authentic Naglfar touch. Indeed, listening to ‘Cerecloth’ does take me back a little, to the late 90s but that’s not always a bad thing. The world moves on at such a pace that sometimes it is nice to be able to rely on something consistent and reliable. If ever a black metal band could be described in such a way, then ‘Cerecloth’ process that Naglfar are indeed that band.

As I have made abundantly clear, there is very little in the way of surprises on ‘Cerecloth’. Therefore you can be sure to expect plenty of ferocious blast beats, fast-picked tremolo riffs, venomous vocals courtesy of Kristoffer W. Olivius and those icy, quasi-melodic hamonised guitar leads from Norman and his six-string partner-in-crime Andreas Nilsson. But when I refer to melody, I’m referring to the kind that might be catchy after a few spins but which carry an undeniable malevolence too; there’s little to smile about when listening to Naglfar, that’s for sure.

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Having said that, ‘Horns’ is one of those more playful tracks that the Swedes can throw up. It has a galloping pace about it, some of the more instant melodies and there’s a great swaggering lead guitar solo for good measure. Then there’s ‘Like Poison For The Soul’ which backs up its Gothic-sounding title with an interesting bass intro and a slight slowing of the pace to allow a little more by way of dark atmosphere to seep into the composition. I swear I can hear some subtle keys buried deep within too. And a word has to go to ‘Necronaut’, which sounds like a slowly churning melodic little brother to My Dying Bride, at least until the vocals kick in that is. The melodic intent is genuinely front and centre, as is the palpably mournful atmosphere that it exudes in spades.

But despite the above examples, extreme metal really is the mainstay of the Naglfar approach. Just take the opening title track as the first example. Within seconds, the listener is surrounded by a flurry of warp-speed scything riffing and the incessant pummelling of drums. The frenetic nature of the song is almost relentless for the full four minutes that thunder past with genuine black metal violence whilst retaining an element of memorability thanks to the dual guitar work that penetrates the razor-sharp, finely-honed tumult.

I’m also a fan of the brutal ‘Vortex Of Negativity’, as it is unrelenting in its aural punishment for the most part, but also nicely grandiose with an epic sheen, created once again by some sublime lead guitar harmonies and a latter-song foray into a slower, more measured and unnerving attack. I also rather like ‘Cry Of The Seraphim’, especially the latter stages where a Dissection-esque grandeur catches my ear.

Listening to ‘Cerecloth’ is like welcoming back an old friend, albeit a friend that has violent and murderous tendencies. You feel both comforted by a sense of the familiar, whilst remaining on edge, petrified that you might suffer a hideous injury in their company. Ultimately though, kudos must be directed at Naglfar for coming back after such a lengthy absence and essentially picking up where they left off, without missing a beat. It must have been tempting to try to diversify just a little, but Naglfar are having none of it and as such, ‘Cerecloth’ is exactly the album you expect it to be and that long-term hardcore fans will have fervently hoped for.

The Score of Much Metal: 82%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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