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Nortt : Døden... (Demo)

The second demo of Nortt, from 1998, sees him at his softest and most melancholic side.

The second demo of Nortt, 'Døden...' was once again self-released on cassette, in 1998, a year after 'Nattetale'. Curiously, both were recorded in the same month - October. This demo is a direct continuation of the sound on the previous one. Nortt clearly learned from his first attempt and focused on its best aspects. Once again, we get four tracks including an intro but the songs have grown much longer, each one reaching the ten-minute mark.

Like every Nortt album, this one starts with a dedicated intro song. The sounds of rain and thunder immediately remind of the later, better known 'Gudsforladt'. The guitar kicks in quite soon and it is evident right from the start that the production has gotten much better. The intro serves as a voiceless quintessence of what Nortt is all about - ultra distorted, almost still guitar, simple keyboard piano-like notes (that would soon be replaced by a genuine piano) and a synth line.

The title track continues the same piano melody but soon evolves and drifts away from the sound on the intro. We hear the desperate whispers, which are going to be the main vocal style throughout the album. The guitar is less distorted than usual and the riffs carry the main melody. It is still cold as winter but not as harsh. We feel stranded in the north snowy fields, alone, but not frostbitten yet. The overall impression is that the same riff runs throughout all the tracks, though it builds up slightly in intensity. At times, the keyboards replace the guitar in carrying the lonely melody while keeping the general flow of the songs intact.

Personally, I am not too fond of the whispers even though they reinforce the winter feeling. I cannot deny that they fit the music very well - completely lifeless, devoid of any hope and often tortured. The vocals properly depict a man on the brink of death uttering his final breath. Most of the times they flow unobtrusively in the background sitting somewhere between an actual whisper and a silent moan but can also vary in intensity, at times turning into whispery screams and emerging to the foreground.

The biggest strength of the album is the flow of guitar riffs and keys, which is extremely immersive. The method Nortt uses is very simple but highly effective, the artist skillfully and seamlessly executes such an easy-to-break formula to the fullest. The guitars are not too harsh, slightly warm, raw and sound wonderful. There is no real progression in them as they just flow and flow, highly repetitive but absorbing. As the album moves on, we simply get more and more straightforward, slow and melancholic riffs. At times, the keyboard line emerges, running in parallel, which is a highlight in every Nortt album. The drums are just there to support the music but they work great in that respect.

'Døden...' is the last Nortt album without a dedicated outro. Instead, the final track is 'Evig hvile', the shortest one at roughly nine minutes (and four minutes of unnecessary silence at the end). A slightly different rendition appears in the compilation 'Mournful Monuments' where it is marked as recorded in 1996 possibly making it the earliest Nortt recording. It is very close to the one found on this demo but has quite worse production. Another, quite different seven-minute version from 2003 is featured as a bonus track on 'Gudsforladt' and is obviously superior. These two are pretty unrecognizable but you can still discern some patterns here and there with the main difference between them being the keyboard line that appears here sporadically while it is much more pronounced on the later one revealing that Nortt figured out its strength and accentuated on it. The title track was also re-recorded for the debut full length and is even less recognizable there. The newer version is superb, but does not make this early one obsolete at all.

The arrangements could be a bit amateurish at times with weird break-ups in the melody that do not seem intentional. The low point of the album is certainly the samples of howling wolves that appear in 'Intethedens mørke', which are almost cringe-worthy. They are plain bad and though probably intended as desperate wails end up sounding like mating calls. Fortunately, they appear seldom and fail to interrupt the flow of the song.

'Døden...' is the most accessible Nortt album ever as it features the lightest screams and the least harsh guitar. This is also the least "blackened" and the most conventional doom album of his oeuvre, as the screams are almost gone and the guitar is not as thin as usual. Here we can also find the most melancholic sound he ever produced, as it is not all drowned in ugly depression. Still, do not expect anything upbeat or remotely hopeful. Every note is cold. Everything is intended to sound forlorn and it succeeds without doubt.

So where does this demo stand? Compared with 'Nattetale' I consider them of equal quality. The vocals are better and more varied on the first demo, while 'Døden...' has better, slower guitars and keyboards that are more pronounced. It is clearly not as good as later releases and can be easily overshadowed by them but its strength lies in the elements, which can be found only here. He produced an almost typical doom album but with an undeniable Nortt feeling, still strictly adhering to the narrow confines of his trademark sound. The tape is not that easy to find and Nortt has stated that he is not going to re-release it as he is not satisfied with the quality, but if you want to see a slightly softer side of this band, then I highly recommend this.

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Reviewer's rating: 6/10


Tracklist :
1. Dødens indtræden
2. Døden...
3. Intethedens mørke
4. Evig hvile

Duration : Approx. 38 minutes

Visit the Nortt bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-02-20 by Klamerin Malamov
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