Sound: With high anticipation I picked up my copy of the recent Naglfar album, a release that was delivered on a wave of strong expectations. Yet upon listening to it, I found that as much as the sound fans grew to love was still strong, the music felt somewhat soulless. There is something about this album that makes it sound safe and contrived, despite all the elements that usually make a melodic black metal release so good.
While not a bad release in itself, I was left with a feeling that there could be a lot more to these songs. It's a consistent effort, which is good, as there are no tracks that are a big let-down, or filler-sounding. Unfortunately that also means that there aren't any stand-out good tracks on the album either. This is a problem, as the songs blend in too much.
Harvest kicks off with 'Into The Black'; a great start, as it's a song with good dynamics and pace, and reminds one of the greatness of a lot of previous Naglfar work. 'Breathe Through Me' continues where it's predecessor left off. After this, however, the pace slows down, and the album plods along at the mid-tempo black metal for most of the album. It picks back up towards the end with 'Feeding Moloch', which is probably the best song on the album for me.
The lead work is a highlight. While very economical, the solos are a nice ear candy, and when they do appear, are a welcome sound. The phrasing and note choice are interesting and original, and something that perhaps should have been utilised more. The guitar tone is good, if a little un-inspiring, and generally the sound is strong and melody-driven.
The production is mostly quite good; the clarity isn't an issue, and the album never degenerates into a muddy mess. I felt that drums could be recorded better, but it's a minor grievance. The guitar tone is good, and the occasional piano line adds a nice touch to the songs. // 7
Lyrics: Kristoffer Olivius' vocals are one of my favourite features about Harvest. They comply with the music perfectly, carrying it along with the same uncompromising attitude. At the same time, I felt that the lyrics were very contrived, and while not descending into overtly text-book territory, don't offer anything that hasn't already been said by many other bands. It left me wondering if Olivius just scrambled something up to record with the songs. The occasional Old English words don't help either, as in this context they look like an attempt to sound sophisticated, rather than creating a certain atmosphere.
The subjects addressed most within the lyrics are misanthropy, darkness and hate, which is by itself nothing new. The title track probably features the strongest poetic lines, yet overall the writing seems lazy and riddled with cliched colloquia's. If anything it's the lyrics that diminish the overall quality of the album, as there seems to be no passion in creating them. This doesn't match to anything that Naglfar have achieved previously, as their songwriting on most of the previous work is of much higher standard. // 4
Overall Impression: Despite the criticism, I think Naglfar have managed to release a consistent and solid release. Lyrics aside, the music never goes into completely awful or overly generic grounds, and little things like piano intros and acoustic overdubs add to the overall sound. The best songs are easily Feeding the Moloch, Into The Black and Harvest. The latter reminds me somewhat of Dissection's Where Dead Angels Lie; both are slower and more melodic songs than the rest of respective records. As far as particular strong points go, the lead guitars keep things quite interesting, despite the cameo appearances.
My main concern is whether the band can keep up the energy and inspiration to write a record that is better than this one. Harvest has its strong points, but it is brought down by lack of pace, and quite frankly, lack of spark. It's a well produced album, but lacks the emotional depth, or anger and passion that would make this album stand out.
This was a digipack edition, and comes with a DVD, which includes a live performance, a promo video for The Perpetual Horrors and a couple of interviews. The artwork is well thought out, reflecting the overall theme. So all in all pretty good value. If something happened to it I'd probably replace it, though I'd look for the digipack edition again. The music reminds of some Enslaved, Dissection and Watain, and if you are already interested in those bands you'd probably pick up Harvest. // 7