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Nattferd (1995)

Nattferd is the first full-length album from Ragnarok. These guys were part of the wave of bands that came along following the explosion of the Norwegian black metal scene. As was the case with many of the other bands that emerged in 1994 and after, Ragnarok displays a lack of direction and one gets the sense that they were quite unclear on what their intentions were. Released in May 1995, on Head Not Found, Nattferd is a confusing and inconsistent affair, but not without its more notable moments.

The songwriting is rather generic, for the most part. The band utilizes a lot of ugly riffs that would have served well had they opted for a darker and more primitive approach. However, it would seem that they spread themselves a bit thin, attempting to incorporate more epic arrangements as well. Several of the songs are utterly ruined by awkward keyboard usage, making one wonder what the hell these guys were trying to do. The synth is not dark or evil at all and actually works to the detriment of the riffs. Under close scutiny, it becomes clear that the only track that survives the horrible arrangement and ridiculous synth is "Et Vinterland I Nord", which is a decent song that has more of an epic Viking metal feeling, rather than a dark black metal vibe.

The production suits the material, though that is not saying much. The guitars are have sort of a raw edge, but the riffs do not really justify this type of sound. It is sort of similar to Satyricon's debut album, Dark Medieval Times. The main difference would be that the guitar sound is somewhat thicker, but not by much. Drumming is a little higher than it should be, but not so much as to distract from the rest. The vocals are at the right level, and have a decent sound though not very distinctive. Everything about this screams generic and these guys were likely just big fans of the earlier Norwegian bands and had no actual vision of their own. The result was just tossing a lot of disparate elements together and creating a mess.

Nattferd may appeal to those that do not mind ridiculous synth that undermines the integrity of the guitar riffs. Though, in this case, the riffs are sub-par in the first place. There is only one passable song on here, so for that it is worth picking up if found in a discount bin. If you are the type to drool over anything from Norway, it would be wise to understand that a lot of people jumped on the black metal bandwagon in the mid-90s and very few of them even tried to reach the same level of quality of those that came before them. You are better off passing this up in favour of something else.
(25 Oct. 2011)

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