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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: NordWitch - Mørk Profeti

NordWitch is a five-piece melodic blackened death metal band that was formed in February 2015. Initially they were a Ukrainian/Hungarian band, but right after the recordings for their debut album called ‘Mørk Profeti’, which translates as ‘Dark Prophecy’, were completed, drummer Donets Stepan, Hungary’s sole representative in NordWitch was replaced by Eugene Hrulev, making NordWitch an all Ukrainian band. According to themselves, the members are not new to the metal scene, they all have previous experiences with other bands, but what bands that have been remains unknown. However, judging by the skills they showcase on ‘Mørk Profeti’ it’s safe to say NordWitch is not their first project.

So who is NordWitch exactly? Well, apart from Eugene, NordWitch consists of Max on solo guitar, Leo on rhythm guitar, Max Senchilo on bass guitar and last, but not least: Masha on vocals. If I hadn’t known for a fact Masha is female, I would never have guessed based on her vocal performance. Where many female grunters can easily be identified by the lack of depth and vibration in their grunts, causing them to be higher pitched than those of their male counterparts, Masha, well, grunts like a dude and that’s a compliment. NordWitch’s inspiration comes from satanism, occultism and ancient Scandinavian mythology. Having their debut album lined up for release soon, they are now planning a European tour to support it. Let’s see if their music justifies trying to get a ticket.

‘Mørk Profeti’ starts pretty straight-forward with the title song, an instrumental, atmospheric piece of music. It’s not particularly original, but that really doesn’t matter. Not even a bit. In my opinion, every intro, apart from those that are part of a conceptual release, should be meant to set the tone for the rest of the album and that is exactly what this one does. It starts with howling guitars, giving the song a sinister feel to it, where towards the end it appears to be specifically set up to give you an idea of where this album will take you music-wise. The next song, ‘Dominion’, introduces Masha’s grunts to the listener, which are an impressive addition to the overall sound. Furthermore, it proves to be a perfect example of the sound NordWitch manages to conjure up on ‘Mørk Profeti’: Versatile, skilled, often changing pace and at times brutal, but always with a melodic and sometimes evil touch.

Masha’s grunts have already been discussed, they’re right up there with the best. She is capable of deep, soul-tearing grunts as well as more possessed sounding growls without being too predominant, very well displayed in, for example, ‘Lady Evil’. The guitar tandem Max-Leo sounds as if they have been a team since their birth, a very well attuned duo. Leo’s riffs are firm and solid, guarding the pace of the song, while Max’s solo work flies loose but fierce, always kicking in at the right moment, adding to the flow of the song. Try ‘Walker from Shade’ for size or ‘The Call to the Antion Evil’. And then there’s the rhythm section. Relentless, breathtakingly fast without ever spiraling out of control, truly a performance that deserves nothing but deep respect. Try keeping up with them in ‘No Regret’ or ‘Messiah of Death’, I’m certain you’ll be seriously challenged.

All in all, ‘Mørk Profeti’ is an awesome piece of work, with some truly great tunes. Both the songs and the compositions are equally strong and played with skill. Even the more or less mandatory oddball almost every new release has, ‘Mørk Profeti’ is no exception to that rule, fits in. In this case that oddball is the majestic ‘To North Gods’, with its relatively slow pace and more friendly atmosphere a soothing touch amidst the power of the rest of the album. This too is a great song, although it fading out at the end seems out of place. And that right there is the album’s only flaw in my opinion, be it a minor one. That and the fact it has a playing time of only 38 minutes. I really wish it would have lasted at least double that time. If they can keep this up, with the new drummer and all, NordWitch is a definite asset to a genre that is tough to be an asset to. Definitely recommended, one of the best releases I have heard this year.

Written by Henric van Essen

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