posted on 3/2003 By:
I don’t know exactly what it was that caught my attention about this album, but upon a first listen of song content in random order, I felt compelled to wholly grasp it and put it under a microscope. Being a full-time fan of death & brutal death metal, I occasionally find myself staring out the window of metal opportunity as it opens as a result of imminent boredom from the daily metal grind, which lately has consisted of Yattering, Avulsed, and good ‘ole Cannibal Corpse. So I decided to tackle something a bit out of the ordinary for me. Now, I don’t claim to be a guru of infinite wisdom when it comes to black metal, yet nor do I claim to be as green as grass on the topic. I have several albums from Immortal, Emperor, Dimmu Borgir and more recently the new Marduk. Out of all I have found Immortal to be the band getting the most airplay of the bunch mainly because of their creative songwriting, distinctive guitarwerk, and less employment of atmospheric keys. Upon first listen to Naglfar, I found a lot of aggression. And that obviously is a good thing. Raging vocals similar to that of Immortal, but w/ more of a blasting scream edge to them. It doesn’t take long for the blast beats to emerge. Join that w/ your tremlo-picked, higher end toned guitars and you have a gauntlet-clad call to battle. Now I’ve listened to Sheol a good 10 times now and I gotta say that a lot of my initial interest has faded. Not because I think the music is bad, but because I think it’s generally repetitive. “Devoured by Naglfar” has a genius riff to start it off and close it out and I can easily recognize it. But I am tempted to challenge the majority of metalheads to listen to a 5 second “snip-it” from the main body of any of these songs and be able to identify exactly which song it is on the album. Basically what I’m saying is that the distinction factor is running really thin on Sheol. I realize there is a big difference in style between black and death, but if Naglfar was the representative for the genre then I’d have to say if you’ve heard one then you’ve heard them all. I guess I’d call Naglfar melodic to an extent, but more of a blasting style is apparent throughout. Keys are employed, but when they are, you can count on basic 2-3 note progressions behind the guitars each time. And when I noticed the simple melodies that were basically just being drawn out in length, that’s when the interest wore out. Every song has this basic structure somewhere: Atmospheric “UP” (tremlo-picked single-note guitars adhere), atmospheric “DOWN” (once again, guitars adhere), UP, DOWN, etc, etc. I know solid musicianship when I hear it, and I can say that Naglfar are well trained and have honed themselves as a unisonic cutting metal machine, but maybe I just got a tad bit spoiled on Immortal w/ their captivating creations and then jumping to a straight ahead blast like Naglfar. Solid musicianship and great production, but basically little variation or emotional change happening. Good stuff for a 40 minute charge on a horse into enemy territory for battle, but outside that I probably won’t have much use for Sheol in the future. Now, where’s that Sons of Northern Darkness…
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