The elephant farts are back. And that’s a good thing. Even though the awesomeness of the ”beautiful” horn in intro track ”Зустріну Тебе В Імлі Старій” is far beyond my comprehension, most everything else about ”Істина” is fantastic. Symphonic black metal with strong ethnic influences is what the Ukrainians are known for, and that is exactly what we get here.
First track proper, ”Мольфа”, displays most of Nokturnal Mortum’s tools: we’ve got driving riffs, Eastern-tinged melodies, and flutes, magniloquent strings, passionate bellowing in their mother tongue, an atmospheric interlude, upper mid-tempo drumming, imaginative arrangements… When a 08:33 track feels short, yet still manages to say it all, you know you’re onto something great.
The ethnic instruments and synth arrangements are what really set this album, and band, apart from most of the rest; they bring great variety, a unique touch to their sound, and emotional depth that is hard to convey with traditional metal instruments only. The dynamic spectrum is greater, and thus the possibilities of emotive expression. It’s refreshing to hear a band clearly not the least bit worried about adhering to a certain style or genre. They simply let their creativity and pathos take them to wherever it leads. Hats off. Aside from the folkier bits, there are some riffs and parts that border on prog rock or even post-rock, more aggressive thrash bashing, and of course the bigger-than-the-universe symphonic black metal parts that somehow feel as they tie together the cosmic truths of surreality with our corporeal, earthen life forms. The scope is all-encompassing and feels both close and distant at the same time. I think the expression I’m looking for is called ”depth of expression”, or possibly ”rad as fuck”.
One thing slightly bugging me throughout ”Істина” is the drum sound, which isn’t the most organic of all. A shame, since Bairoth’s vivid drumming certainly deserves better, and the folky elements would mesh better with a less polished and artificial drum sound. I understand the pragmatic problem of getting all layers discernible in this arrangement-wise pretty complex album, but still… Other than that minor grievance, the production is top-notch. Everything is clearly audible and the reverbs used bring great depth. The guitars slot in pretty deep down in the mix, since they mostly act a supporting role to the melodic and lyrical content. The solos are absolutely nothing special and could easily have been replaced with something else. Like better solos, for example.
Aside from the mentioned drum performance, Knjaz Varggoth’s vocals specifically deserve a nod of approval. Usually, it’s pretty easy to hear if a vocalist is singing lyrics in his first language or not; when it’s your native tongue, all the vocal colours, consonant crunches, syllable accents, sentence phrases and so on just feel right, and it shows in a more natural and rousing performance. Such is definitely the case here, as Knjaz delivers with wholehearted conviction and persuades me into roaming the steppes with his war horde and bringing waste to anything standing in our way. The throat chanting on ”Вовчі Ягоди” is cool as fuck, and the shouted choirs thrown in here and there are nice as well. Variety was the word.
The permeating atmosphere is one switching between epic bombast, wistful melancholy and primitive power. Immortality and mortality; future, present, and past. Some of the symphonic parts remind me of Limbonic Art’s ”Moon in the Scorpio” and Arcturus’ ”Aspera Hiems Symfonia”, and that’s a huge fucking compliment in my book. Surely ”Істина” is the best album Nokturnal Mortum have ever done, and I’m sure it will feature heavily on end-of-the-year best-of lists. Pick it up, or be a sorry fuck with no taste whatsoever.
Knjaz Varggoth: lead vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass
Rutnar: bass, backing vocals
Jurgis: guitars, backing vocals
01. Зустріну тебе в імлі старій (Intro)
03. З чортом за пазухою
04. Смерековий дід
05. Пісня хуги
06. Вовчі ягоди
07. У човні з дурнями
08. Дика вира
09. Ліра (Кому Вниз cover)
10. Чорний мед
11. Ніч богів
12. Куди пливуть вінки рікою? (Outro)