While they haven’t always been mentioned as often as some of the other Swedish melodic black metal bands out there, Naglfar’s been a consistent force in the genre since the early 90s and was offering their own take on the genre at the same time as Dissection and some of the bigger names out there. Where the late 90s and 2000s saw a flurry of releases, in recent memory the band has been quiet as they’ve gone through some lineup shifts and material has been few and far between. After a nearly eight year wait since 2012’s Téras, the core trio has once again returned with Cerecloth. Following the familiar patterns that fans have come to expect from Naglfar, this seventh studio album doesn’t push the group into any radically different territory, but it does provide another strong collection of songs that do the genre justice.
Naglfar has been utilizing session members since their last full length, which in part could explain the lengthy gap between releases. But listening to Cerecloth this fact wouldn’t be obvious, as both A. Impaler (Firespawn) and Efraim Juntunen (Guillotine, Persuader) mesh with the core trio of the band perfectly and help to bring the same level of fire and precision to the material that long-time listeners have come to expect. With this base in place it’s evident that the group wanted to focus on speed for much of the run-time, as the first three quarters of Cerecloth blasts away at high speeds and occasional mid-tempo breaks where the melodies swirl over top of the recording with a commanding presence. It isn’t until closer to the end where Naglfar slows things down significantly and lets the atmosphere fester further, making this album a whirlwind of high-speed riffing where one cold melody after the other smacks you in the face. There’s still plenty of appeal to this type of melodic black metal and the way it’s delivered here does have some memorability, but as with some of the band’s more recent releases the similar structures does result in some of the songs blurring together by the end.
Kristoffer W. Olivius has been the group’s vocalist since 2005’s Pariah, having originally been on bass, and his towering screams have been a fixture of their sound ever since. His performance throughout Cerecloth remains top notch, as there’s so much intensity to the higher pitched screams that they seem unstoppable and capable of levelling buildings. It’s this type of forceful and commanding approach that has always drawn me to black metal, and it does once again help to elevate Naglfar above some of their peers where the screams sound tired or phoned in at these later stages of their careers. Given how intense some of the guitar leads are it helps that the vocals can match, and every aspect of Cerecloth has an immense amount of power that stacks up alongside the rest of the genre.
There are some standout moments on this album, as some of the leads have that icy blast that gets under your skin and sticks with you. But as with some of Naglfar’s past discography, they fall into a fast and mid-tempo attack pattern from the get-go and there are similarities that make some of the songs blur together. It’s a consistent and polished effort from this long running band but doesn’t quite reach some of the peaks of their best albums. Cerecloth is available from Century Media Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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