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Nortt : Nattetale (Demo)

In his 1997 first demo, Nortt displays maturity of idea and intent even if the sound does not quite catch up.

Nortt should need no introduction, but, in case it does, I can pretty much describe the sound using the band's own words: 'pure depressive black funeral doom metal'. Usually bands' own overly pretentious self-labelling tends to be absurd, but here it is spot on as Nortt is indeed all about pure depressive Funeral Doom and little else. The band, whose name comes from the Danish word for night, slightly changed to be personalized, has been active since 1995 and cites as influences, not surprisingly, groups like Burzum, Thergothon and Skepticism. The combination of Black and Doom was intentional as it provided the most intense and obscure atmosphere and he saw this fusion as the darkest possible between all the various musical genres. The project has a very solid output and arguably, quite a few of the releases reach perfection. Despite this I'll try to persuade you that this little obscure demo, which I'm pretty sure few have and probably even fewer listen to, has its place in Nortt's discography and despite its young age, the passion in there is evident and the result is more than worthwhile.

'Nattetale' was the first demo Nortt made, self-released on cassette in 1997. I have read interviews where the man behind Nortt is pretty harsh on it, calling it (together with 'Døden...') "not particularly good" and I can see why - his inexperience is evident, and it sounds slightly amateurish at times. Surprisingly the production is not too bad for a first demo with all the instruments being perfectly discernible. It is very raw but I guess this is intentional and even if it was a consequence of limited available resources, it fits perfectly. The length is quite short as we get only twenty minutes worth of music, but it never gets boring. On the contrary - it engulfs you in a well-crafted atmosphere.

What is surprising is that the formula the artist was going to use for the rest of his career was almost fully defined even at this early stage, in his very first attempt. It adheres to the principle that less is more, using very simple means to great effect. The demo starts with the mandatory intro which features a cello-like synth displaying the drawn-out melody line that would be the backbone of his music going onwards. 'Dystert Sind' would later be re-recorded twice (thrice if you count the slightly altered version on 'Mournful Monuments'), and serve as an outro first on 'Hedengang' and later on 'Gudsforladt'. The later versions were not only much better recorded, but the differences between them are major. Here the sound is much calmer, slower, and, if not for the whispers (present only on this version), I'd even call it soothing: later on it became disturbing, chilly and full of unease.

When the first real song starts, we are immediately greeted with the well-known guitar. Slow beyond belief, ultra distorted and harsh. This will remain Nortt's trademark guitar sound for nearly two decades, though here it is still not as cold and raspy as it would become several albums later. On top of it, we have tortured whispers, which are a bit flat and do not convey as much misery and depression as the more typical blackish screams we'd become accustomed to. After a short acoustic break the guitar tone changes. It becomes cleaner and much more riff based. It picks up some speed and just goes on, riff after riff. The drums are pretty quiet, providing a steady middle paced rhythm. The whispers become harsher and more tortured as the song goes on. The guitar, with the help of the whispers, almost solely carries the weight of the music.

Next is 'Intet Lys I Livet', which is the best track for me mostly because it is the only song that has keys in the background which underline the loneliness immensely. The keys and guitars exchange the leading role and are marvelous in their impact upon the listener. Nortt would realize the potential of this combination and would expand on it greatly in the future.

The last track starts in the same fashion, with slow distorted guitar and tortured wails. The tempo quickly picks up speed and turns into the fastest song Nortt has ever written. It is not as immersive as the previous ones and it relies solely on the power of the simple melodies, which are fortunately always good. The drums are relatively fast, very monotone and repetitive, setting up the fashion that is going to be quite typical for this style in the future - slow riffs over fast rhythm. At the end the tempo slows down, the guitars fade out; we get one last moan of pain and then silence. Quite an effective closure for the only album that does not have the usual dedicated outro.

The songs are all relatively short. The vocals are a mixture of whispers and blackish screams, fairly subdued most of the time and not that prominent. Actually, the shift from whispers to screams plays a huge role in underlining the tension in the music. The riffs are simple, melancholic and pretty repetitive, but used to great effect. The monotone rhythm is droning and hypnotic. There is no real progression during the album or the individual songs themselves, the structure is pretty straightforward and flat but the goal is to build and sustain an atmosphere in which it succeeds even without much variation between songs. There is no real filler despite the repetitiveness, just waves of depression thrown at you. It is best listened to as a whole, as it flows perfectly.

The overall sound is very raw and the atmosphere is superb. The only low point are the whispery vocals, which are simply not as good as the screams, so I am happy he quickly discarded them. Though Nortt was overtly satanic in the early days, at least judging from his early interviews full of hilarious ramblings hailing evil and death in a literal sense, this does not come up in the music. Yes, the whispers can be seen from their sinister side but above all, they carry resignation and lifelessness. Listening to 'Nattetale' side by side with later releases reveals its shortcomings, but taken on its own, it is a completely worthwhile release. It shows surprising maturity of the idea and credo behind the project even if the sound does not quite catch up. However, the overall goal is reached - to create an album preoccupied with death and death only. The mood it builds is spot on - the feeling is wintery, cold, harsh and utterly lonely.

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Reviewer's rating: 6/10


Tracklist :
1. Dystert sind
2. Den sidste nat
3. Intet lys i livet
4. I mørket

Duration : Approx. 21 minutes

Visit the Nortt bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-02-20 by Klamerin Malamov
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