7/3/17 – Nokturnal Mortum “Істина” (2017)

Істина or “Verity” is the latest album from Black Metal group Nokturnal Mortum. Much like the White Ward album i reviewed a while back, these guys are Ukranian and play Black Metal, but their sound couldn’t be further apart. Істина is much more melodic, clean, and folk inspired. Instead of the sax, a flute here is heavily used, and to great effect. Nokturnal Mortum also sings in Ukrainian, and so far there haven’t been any translations I could find for this album. What I went off then was just the raw intensity of singer Knjaz Varggoth’s growls. The Black Metal aspect is toned down slightly for more typical Heavy Metal tropes, and they’re nowhere near as avant-garde as White Ward. Saying all that, Істина rocks hard.

The intro track I’ll Meet You in Ancient Darkness sets the scene, a dark and mysterious swamp, full of ambient noise, siren-like chanting, and what sounds like a curse being spit out. Molfa is fantastic, and I love the flute’s short flutters between the guitar riffs. It’s a long song that changes shape frequently, even having a short atmospheric interlude echo of the intro. Song of the Snowstorm balances the Folk  influences and Black Metal riffs perfectly, seamlessly switching back and forth between the two- very headbang worthy song. Further on down the album they get more anthemic with some catchy and chantable choruses, especially on Wild Weregild and Lira. What’s interesting about this album is how much prominence the bandura is given, it’s mixed to be in the center stage, often times louder than the guitars or drums. I can’t say I’m completely in love with that choice, but I think it’s a bold one. They close with the epic 9 minute Night of the Gods and the atmospheric closer Where Do the Wreaths Float Down the River. The album is very, very consistent, delivering interesting and heart pounding Metal with every track.

Something to note and it seems dishonest not to – when I researched this band (never heard of them till now), their past is tainted with overtly racist material. Recent albums have avoided this completely, but I can’t understand the lyrics and there doesn’t seem to be a translation so far. Whether that’s because they changed their outlook or they just want to avoid press, or just to make more sales, I can’t say. In a genre full of disgusting and horrifying imagery, shocking to say the least, this black stain on the band seems to be the most provocative. It’s honestly disappointing because the music is so good, but maybe they really have turned a corner and changed, however unlikely that is. With that preface, that might change your opinion on this album and my recommendation, so I’d go into it knowing all this. The music is fantastic though, however how far can you disassociate the art with the artist? What truly offends – songs of murder, rape, horror, or racial superiority? And is the impact changed when then intent isn’t to simply shock?