Nargaroth can be such a frustrating band. In the late 90s, Nargaroth looked like a new and innovative band within the black metal scene. The debut, “Herbstleyd”, is a classic that integrates the stylistic qualities of Burzum and Graveland with Kanwulf’s own taste for epic melodies. However, it’s been a long, bumpy road since then.Black Metal Ist Kreig” is extremely generic, offering nothing that hasn’t been done before and done better. The same goes for “Prosatanica Shooting Angels”. On the other hand, “Gelibte des Regens” is one of the most repetitive albums I have ever heard. It was like Kanwulf heard “Filosofem” and thought all he needed to do to create quality hypnotic black metal was repeat a riff for fifteen minutes straight. As anyone who has sat through the laborious title track can attest, it's not that easy.
Still, there is something that always makes me come back to Nargaroth. I think it’s the fact that I always say to myself “well, it has potential”. For example, “Gelibte des Regens” does have some very nice riffs, they just don’t need to be repeated for fifteen minutes. Thus when I heard some of the ambient samples from the new album “Spectral Visions of Mental Warfare,” I figured it was worth a listen. As usual, there are promising elements and as usual, the whole the work misses the mark.
The first thing one should know about “Spectral Visions…” is that there is really only about 25 minutes of black metal on an hour long album. The rest of music is dark ambient. Dark ambient can be great when done correctly. (In fact, Kanwulf produced an excellent piece of dark ambient on “Herbstleyd”). However, most of the ambient tracks are just awful. The opening piece “Odin's Weeping for Jördh” is the best of the bunch. It is lush, solemn and soulful. The main melody is quite beautiful and the ambient noises, though cliché (wolf, raven, and storm... the unholy trinity of black metal nature noises) create a powerful presence.
The rest of the ambient pieces split into two categories. The first are the pieces that sound like they come off some new-age bargain bin CD. Listening to “Diving Among the Daughters of the Sea”, I clike some hippy chick should be telling me about the psychic power of dolphins while realigning my chakras. Second, there are the pseudo-techno songs. These are long, repetitive electronica tracks that are too slow to dance to but too boring to just sit and listen to. No one needs to waste their time listening to Kanwulf’s FruityLoops experimentation.
On the other hand, the three black metal songs are good. Slow and solemn riffs are layered with lush keys and periodic screeches. If nothing else, Kanwulf deserves credit for having a good ear for a dramatic and moving melody. However, even here Kanwulf cannot let things be. The best riff of the entire album comes around the 4:30 mark of “A Whisper Underneath The Bark Of Old Trees”. It’s a sweeping, epic melody—expressing a controlled, reflective glory. But we don’t get to enjoy it. The entire three minute passage is overdubbed with audio of some German guy screaming, yelling and crying—in short, having a mental breakdown. Just what every amazing melody needs… a random overdub of a clip from a movie. The long, obnoxious clip ruins any potential the track has for repeat listening.
On the whole, “Spectral Visions of Mental Warfare” has its moments, but they are just too few and far between. It seems Kanwulf just cannot put together a good album without shooting himself in the foot.