Review: Nokturnal Mortum – Verity

Nokturnal Mortum is one of those bands that everybody should know but very few actually do. And as I stated in my vinyl follow-up about the band’s 2009 magnum opus, The Voice of Steel, a big part of that has to do with their now former association with the NSBM movement early on in their career. But over the last decade, the band has tried to distance themselves from said movement and in the process rebrand themselves as a fairly prototypical blackened folk metal band. In fact in 2014, lead vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and the band’s spiritual leader, Varggoth, addressed some of these issues head on by stating that since the band’s inception over two decades ago, his political beliefs have drastically changed and that he now rejects any past labels or categorizations made about the band in general. Furthermore, as a way to distance the band from their politically extreme past, he made an open call to the metal community at large to design a new band logo which would be used for their upcoming new full-length entitled Verity. Three years later, that record has finally seen the light of day – new logo and all [It’s purrrty! -Dave].

In many respects, Verity continues where Steel left off, opening up again with the band’s signature war horn cry that bleeds into the first real full-length track. But what sets Verity apart from its predecessor is that it leans more heavily on the its folky side over its blackened one, offering a dazzling array of traditional Ukrainian folk melodies throughout. And in Wagnerian fashion, these melodies also act as quasi-leitmotifs, continually cropping up in each track, sometimes slightly transformed or performed with different arrangements, that help imbue Verity with a real sense of cohesiveness and makes its over seventy minute journey feel less so.

Your first taste of “verity” is indeed in the introductory epic, “Мольфа”, which begins with a simple guitar melody before a gorgeous sounding sopilka suddenly hovers over it, ushering in the violin, cello, and bandura soon after. All of this unorthodox instrumentation weaves an aural tapestry that is beautiful and can at times borderline on the mystical. The track eventually devolves into a solid melodic black metal tune before giving way to its folksy side once again to finish you off. The next track, “З чортом за пазухою,” is probably my favorite of the bunch and is a flat out neck snapping thrill ride all the way through. And though its follow-up, “Смерековий дід,” is definitely more subdued, it is by no means less potent, once again relying on that gorgeous sopilka melody that I guarantee by journey’s end will be ingrained into your gray matter permanently.

The rest of the songs basically follows the same formula laid out by the first three, ebbing and flowing between catchy Ukrainian folk and melodic black. Speaking of which, even if you take away all of its complex arrangements, which I freely admit is absolutely integral to Verity’s sound, this album is chock full of catchy riffs and soaring leads one expects out of your standard, high-quality melodic black metal affair. Couple that with Varggoth’s strong and varied vocal performance as well as some of the best atmospheric keyboard you’ll hear this side of the Danube, there isn’t really much to complain about it here.

Verity as you can imagine was a massive undertaking from a production standpoint, with tracking taking place over several years at various different studios in the Ukraine before finally being mastered at Priority Recording Studios in the UK. Despite the fact that I would have preferred dynamics to be a hair higher, for the most part this album sounds fantastic. The mix does an excellent job of incorporating all of the different folk instrumentation while still maintaining the album’s overall aggressive feel. And the master keeps things civil without having to crank everything to eleven all the time. Probably my biggest complaint is with the album’s bottom end, which though is certainly audible is never really that pronounced. But overall, this is a very professional, modern sounding recording with a production job that never gets in the way of the source material at hand.

To quote a famous philosopher, “This isn’t just an album you should own, this is an album you should own on vinyl.” No truer words could be spoken about Verity, which is currently my frontrunner for AOTY. It’s that good.

Dynamic Range