Release DetailsLABEL VÁN
RELEASED ON 1/1/2007
Virus West (Reissue)
posted on 6/2007 By:
I want to believe that Ván is pushing Nagelfar’s third and final full-length back out to the public because it never had its fair share of time in the spotlight. Sure, it hit some of the year-end roundups when it was originally released (2001, for those keeping score), but it then disappeared under the blanket of fog that begins to creep on shore as soon as an obscure act calls it a day. Not even those corpsepainted Johnny Appleseed types, those traveling from messageboard to messageboard trying to sow “Nagelfar >” seeds in any thread namedropping those “E”-less Swedes, could resuscitate the band’s popularity or gain them much of a postmortem following. But then came The Ruins of Beverast, drummer Alexander Von Meilenwald’s solo side project, an equally avant-garde-minded slice of outsider atmospheric black metal that had anyone who beheld its power scampering to check out the band’s links, all of the “previously of"s. Naturally, that led many back to Germany’s forgotten blackened blasters and the album that was and still is overshadowed by that year’s Black Metal ist Kriegs, the Monumensions, and the Death – Pierce Mes. And, to capitalize on the underground fervor surrounding The Ruins of Beverast perhaps, here’s Ván’s straight reissue of Virus West, back in print and, sadly, without any of the bonus tracks that graced Perverted Flesh’s ’04 double LP rerelease.
So, five years later, Virus West doesn’t sound as fresh as it did, which is almost expected considering the current rise of the experimental “third-wave.” At times, this final incarnation of Nagelfar comes off like an unspectacular German Enslaved with the interest in Pink Floyd and King Crimson replaced by a greater adherence to the second-wave innovations of Transylvanian Hunger, Pure Holocaust, and Dark Medieval Times. Blasting drums cut through speedy Viking metal-esque riffs, with light progressive touches breaking up the buzz (eerie singing, electronics, acoustic guitars, etc.). But, the majority of Virus West takes on this weird air, like Nagelfar was trying to fuse the desperate worlds of Taake (the vocals, certainly) and a more burzmic, midpaced Nargaroth. Fast, violent black metal meets tranquilizing, hypnotic textures; an interesting juxtaposition and something that reminds me of what 1349 accomplished on “Hellfire.” This creates a fascinating paradox as these sections act as an audio anesthetic, lulling you into a dream-like state as blasts and battle-ready guitars wash over you. But, Nagelfar is all about the details, the subtle shifts, and as your attention fades as your mind numbs, you tend to miss the things that made Nagelfar interesting.
While the main focus is on this trading-off of the downright barbaric (See: “Fäden des Schicksals,” a bloodthirsty din that fully lives up to its gunshot opening) and the trance-inducing (See: The gloriously midpaced “Hetzjagd in Palästina”), the band’s slightly more exploratory side is probably why everyone saw so much promise, why Virus West sat on those Top 10 lists without much argument. “Protokoll einer Folter” neat use of incessant, pounding electronic percussion (7:43) would give any of the recent blackened industrial outfits orgasmic shivers of delight, “Sturm der Katharsis”’s beginning is very Pestilence-esque before breaking into a seriously hummable and frosty riff, and, finally, the use of acoustic breaks and clever sampling across the album ably amps up the atmosphere. True, you could cut a good half-hour out of Virus West and not miss a beat, but these bright spots almost justify the exorbitant length. Plus, most of the things that irritate the uninitiated, those still on the black metal sidelines, have been filtered out. The production is full, a satisfying mix of low-end and the ubiquitous buzz, and lead throat Zingultus never wallows in overwrought eccentricities (he’s never too screechy), staying within the “good taste” parameters that most of the unseasoned look for if they’re going to toe-test the water.
So, if you’ve never heard it before, we’re not exactly talking Alan Lomax braving the bayou for primo traditional blues when it comes to rediscoveries here and it may not be like unearthing a box of doubloons in the backyard while planting some daisies, but, to the right listener, its joys are plentiful and it’d be a shame for Nagelfar to remain a footnote, solely an answer to a “members were also in” trivia question. Bottom line, if you’re a fan of Alexander Von Meilenwald’s recent exploits, there’s something here for you.
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