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Digerdöden (1995)
 

Not long after the release of From a Black Funeral Coffin, Nåstrond returned with the Digerdöden E.P. Recorded in the winter of 1994/1995, this 7" picked up from where the previous demo left off, yet actually represented a sort of regression for the band, as the approach seemed to be even more raw and primitive than before. Released in early 1995, this collection of songs sounds as if it came a few years too late, though not entirely.

The production is absolutely horrid. This is not a good example of a necro sound. This is more a case of a band falsely trying to get a rotten sound, simply because they felt it was necessary for them to be taken seriously, perhaps. Digerdöden is much more raw and under-produced than the demo that preceded it, as well as the album that followed. In a sense, this almost comes off like Nåstrond's answer to Wrath of the Tyrant, by Emperor. The overall sound quality is very similar, though this does not possess the same genuine feeling as that recording. Even some of the riffs seem reminiscent of early Emperor. One of the main problems with this release has to be the drumming. It sounds like the drummer is pounding on cardboard boxes, at times, while the double-bass in the background gives an inauthentic vibe to the music. Either way, it is too high in the mix, though the sound quality is so poor that the guitar riffs are difficult to discern and the melodies end up being kind of washed-out.

Musically, this E.P. features a few tracks of average Black Metal. There is nothing going on here that had not already been done much better, a dozen times. The material is not bad, but the songwriting is too unoriginal and derivative of the bands that influenced them. One can get a hint of Nåstrond's rather interesting and unique style of guitar melodies, but this is buried by the shoddy production and a plethora of generic riffs that frame these ephemeral passages. It consists mostly of fast tremolo riffs, blast beats and grim vocals that hardly stand out. The overall presentation is lackluster, though this should appeal to anyone that is simply wanting to hear more raw mid-'90s Scandinavian Black Metal. It is too bad that Toteslaut did not feature a sound similar to this release, as the superior songwriting and musicianship would have benefited from a more raw and primitive sound, so long as it still allowed the riffs to be clearly heard.

Digerdöden is not especially significant or essential, but it is a decent effort that keeps up the traditions of the northern Black Metal sound. If you are the type to collect albums, simply to have more of a certain style (no matter how mediocre they may be), then this is for you. Not the band's finest work, but not terrible either. Give it a listen, if it is convenient to do so.
 
(4 Feb. 2012)

 
 

Nåstrond is one of the many lesser-known Black Metal bands from Sweden. Forming in 1993, they released two demo tapes while more established groups like Dissection and Marduk were making a name for themselves. It was not until 1995 that the band's debut album, Toteslaut, would be unleashed upon the underground. Unfortunately, this is a record that is still rather obscure when compared to the likes of Storm of the Light's Bane or Far Away From the Sun. There is no clear-cut reason why Nåstrond did not make more of an impact with this record, as it contained enough elements that were typical of the Scandinavian Black Metal style to appeal to most fans, while also possessing something that was very unique.

My first exposure to this band came from a mix tape sent to me from a penpal in Finland, back in the late 90s. While the song, "Lord of the Woods", certainly met with a positive response, I failed to seek this album out. I was re-introduced to Nåstrond when living in Sweden, some years ago, and could hardly believe that this album passed under my radar for so long. While far from being the most amazing thing to hail from the frozen north, it did not deserve to go unnoticed or forgotten.

Musically, Toteslaut would seem to follow the general patterns of most Swedish and Norwegian bands of the period. One can hear bits of Bathory and Celtic Frost in the songwriting, and the material consists of a good number of pummeling drum beats and fast tremolo melodies. However, to write this off as being generic would be a disservice. Though the style is fairly standard, the actual riffs possess an eerie and sorrowful atmosphere that is unlike anything else that was released around this time. The additional synth passages do well to accentuate this feeling, while not overpowering the guitar riffs. In most cases, the keyboards are more subtle than in a lot of other bands. The vocals are rather typical, not straying from the sound utilized by bands like Marduk and Gorgoroth. Draugr's voice is very hateful, at times, and suits the music well.

The production is the one main weak point. The drums are far too high in the mix, which gives a feeling of being too polished and fake. Actually, the percussion is reminiscent of that found on the first Algaion album, and one has to wonder if a drum machine was used. The vocals are at an appropriate level, though the clean voices should have been buried a little more. The guitar tone is cold and icy, at times, but they lack any sense of rawness and seem a little too clean. It is not as if this sounds like some mainstream release, by any means, but the material would have benefited from a slightly more primitive sound.

The lyrics deal with topics relating to death, moreso than Satanic / anti-Christian themes. However, it is not done in the manner that one would find on a Death Metal release. The sort of approach that Nåstrond takes as it relates to death is more occult and ritualistic. "May the Rotten Bones Absorb Life Again" is a good example of this, with the creepy riffs complimented by the topic of necromancy.

Despite its flaws, Toteslaut is certainly worth listening to. It is pitiable that Nåstrond's debut effort fell through the cracks and was passed over in favour of so many inferior releases. While using a similar approach as that of many of their contemporaries, this band really captured a completely different type of darkness with the sombre riffs that make up this album. Seek it out and give it a chance.
 
(8 Jan. 2012)
















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