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Review for 'Nargaroth - Jahreszeiten'
Nargaroth is one of Germany's finest Black Metal bands that has never ceased to amaze, releasing some of genre's most stunning and inspiring albums time after time. Rather than a band, Nargaroth can be more correctly described as a solo project, as it was originated in 1996 by German musician René "Kanwulf" Wagner, who changed his pseudonym to "Ash" not long ago, although guitarist Charoon and several other session musicians have also contributed on many of Nargaroth's albums.
Jahreszeiten, which translates from German into English as "Seasons", is Nargaroth's sixth full length album, and together with their landmark 1998 magnum opus Herbstleyd, this is one of their finest albums to date. As you may have already guessed, Jahreszeiten is a concept album revolving around the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter, with one song representing and reflecting each season as well as an additional introductory track titled "Prolog", which primarily consists of a subtle breeze blowing in the background that one can only suppose is a remnant from the previous winter, followed by some German narration, setting the scene perfectly for the epic musical journey ahead.
As is usually the case with all things that are themed or revolve around the season of spring, "Frühling" sets the album in motion with a very upbeat and joyful melody, something uncommon for Black Metal in general, but in this case one soon realizes it fits right into place and I couldn't really imagine a more adequate beginning for such an album. However, "Frühling" doesn't take long to reveal some more traditional Black Metal musicianship of the highest quality, with a somewhat more melancholic vibe appearing here and there, all carried by equally fantastic riffs supported by Kanwulf's distinct vocals.
At this point one usually notices the insanely well performed drumming too. Drumming on Jahreszeiten was performed by Erebor, a relatively unknown but very talented German musician who has also played drums with other German Black Metal acts such as Grabak and Haradwaith. Not only are the drums pretty much flawless, they also have a strong presence in the mix and really drive the album forwards.
Next up is... yes, you guessed correctly. Summer! Carrying on right where "Früling" fades away with the sound of singing birds, "Sommer" kicks off with some excellent guitar work provided by guest musician Marcel Happke from Lightningz Edge. Without straying into Middle-Eastern Black Metal with all it's corresponding atmospheric effects and indigenous guitar scales, it's obviously very challenging to transmit a feeling of summertime or warmth through traditional Black Metal, but fortunately Kanwulf is no stranger to challenges and has excelled once again at creating a perfect Black Metal sound suitable for the warmest months of the year.
Autumn, or "Herbst", is the longest and probably the best song on the whole album, clocking in at just under 22 minutes in length and being nothing short of mind-blowing. I won't reveal any further details about this masterpiece of a song, not that written words would do it any justice anyway, but you'll just have to trust me when I say it's the Black Metal equivalent of gold.
It's highly unlikely, but just in case you weren't completely satisfied with the previous three seasons, it's time for Nargaroth to blast you into oblivion with album's closing track, "Winter". In contrast to the rest of the album, "Winter" dives straight into to furious blast-beats from the beginning, proving that Kanwulf has by no means lost any of his aggression on this outing and feeling right at home when it comes to creating a frozen atmosphere. That said, it also has it's fair share of beautiful moments too.
So there you have it, a rather simple concept that has been covered many times before, but presented on this occasion as one of the greatest Black Metal albums ever. Brilliant.
What other albums sound similar to this?
Thanks to the fact that Nargaroth have been producing some of the finest Black Metal for more than a decade and a half, with a total of seven full length albums under their belt, not to mention the multitude of EPs and demos, there is a wide selection of fantastic albums to choose from, each with Nargaroth's proprietary sound, although some albums, like Herbstleyd, Geliebte Des Regens and the Amarok compilation bear more resemblance to Jahreszeiten than the rest.
As for other bands, since Jahreszeiten offers such a comprehensive portrayal of the four seasons in all their glory, it's hard to find a similar album that gives off the same thematic feel. In fact, while other Nargaroth albums make up for this lack in thematic similarity by sharing the characteristic Nargaroth sound, the best way to make up for it outside of Nargaroth's territory would be to suggest a mix of albums that span all seasons, in one way or another! But it must be clarified beforehand that both musically and aesthetically, nothing comes close to Jahreszeiten when it comes to embracing all four seasons at once.
Ready? Ranging from spring to winter in a rather spontaneous list with a less than approximate order, Noregs Vaapen by Taake, Diadem Of 12 Stars by Wolves In The Throne Room, Naturkraft by Horn, Fallen and Belus by Burzum, Errances Oniriques by Belenos, Om by Negură Bunget, The Great Silk Road by Darkestrah, Hoagascht by Lunar Aurora, Autumn Aurora by Drudkh, Frostnacht by Helrunar, Bifrost by Elite, Graveforests And Their Shadows by Walknut, Melancholie² by Coldworld, Transilvanian Hunger by Darkthrone, and finally Paysage D'Hiver's self-titled EP. More or less, anyway!
Nagelfar's Srontgorrth revolves around the same theme with one song representing each season, and although it is a great album it doesn't actually portray the seasons in a literal sense, but rather in a metaphorical sense. Then again, maybe Nargaroth's Jahreszeiten is a metaphorical representation of the seasons too, it's hard to tell. Also, an honorable mention to Lunar Aurora's 2004 album Zyklus, that deals with a cycle similar to that of the seasons that we can all relate to: morning, day, evening and night, although the album's concepts obviously go a lot deeper than that.
In a nutshell...
Nargaroth's Jahreszeiten is the perfect representation of the four seasons, encapsulated in Black Metal form, and this is exactly what Kanwulf intended, passing the test with flying colours and proving that he can still produce world class Black Metal albums. This would probably be Vivaldi's favourite Black Metal album, or at least his rebellious nephew's favourite Black Metal album.
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