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Nortt : Hedengang (EP)

If you thought that 'Gudsforladt' was too mellow and accessible, this 2002 EP filled with pitch black noise and ugly despair might be just for you.

Three years after the final demo, Nortt released a short EP consisting of two songs that would be re-recorded on 'Gudsforladt'. This was his first official release (beside the weird 10" from the same year) on the infamous Sombre Records. A couple of years later it was re-released as a split with Xasthur, first on Total Holocaust and later on Southern Lord. The original 7" has an ultra-beautiful, somber and fitting cover art, but since I do not like having to flip the tiny disc for each song, this review is based on the vinyl version by Southern Lord, which provides an uninterrupted listening session that is vital for music like this to work properly.

This little EP appeared in 2002, a year before the perfect-all-round 'Gudsforladt', both songs are featured there and resemble the original versions quite a lot, unlike the re-recorded demo tracks which are close to unrecognizable. So, I hear you say, this is typical promo material, not interesting for anyone other than the die-hard collectors: why should it matter? Well, it is much more than that and if you always thought that 'Gudsforladt' was too mellow, the music inside too fast, not ugly enough and the depression not thick enough then 'Hedengang' is just for you. Though both versions of these songs are very piano based, here they are much rawer, harsher and slower, especially 'Glemt', which sounds like it's coming from another dimension. The guitar sound is nowhere near the light distortion of the full-length. This is really the face of ugly and pure depression without any compromise or beautification. Just plain pain.

'Hedengang' starts with the usual intro giving a short condensed version of the music we are about to behold - ultra distorted guitar that is nearly static, lovely piano keys glistering amongst the harsh noise and a vague keyboard line in the background. Short and to the point, it serves as display of what is to follow.

'Glemt' begins with the same ultra-distorted guitar that just sits statically in the background. The sound is extremely harsh - only Il Sangue's 'Elegia 4: ...in Still Desolation' has a harsher and more unlistenable sound whilst still providing some form of gratification. The piano notes that sneak amongst this ugly noise of wretchedness are in stark contrast, which makes them all the more effective. The guitar is really raspy and harsh and gives an extreme feeling of frost. It is like being frostbitten and someone is scraping your skin with sandpaper. In reality there are riffs but they are mostly indiscernible - you can hardly notice when one riff starts and ends as it is so grossly distorted. This is certainly the harshest Nortt album ever made. The vocals are the usual blackish screams, which fit perfectly among the black bile of music thrown at us in waves. Drums are quiet and pushed to the background.

The guitar on second track 'Død og borte' is not as slow and static even though it is still distorted beyond recognition. You can tell that there are attempts at actual riffs, though the guitar here mainly serves as background wall of ugly noise while the piano and keyboards are responsible for the dynamics of the song. Vocals are distant, wretched screams fading in and out.

This is simply harsh and vicious. The production is very raw, which might be intentional since some of the instruments still have a wonderful quality to them. There are no guitar melodies, simply an abrasive wall of guitars that screams desperation - screeching and scraping at your soul, grinding away any happiness. It is constantly droning and burning, as miserable as it can be, while pain oozes. The distortion is a giant step above what we heard on the preceding demo 'Graven' and it seems like Nortt realized that he went too far and he toned it down significantly on later releases. However, here you have it as cold and harsh as it can get.

The contrast of the piano is what elevates the songs. The gentle keyboard lines and the piano notes invoke a sense of loneliness in the face of death. The keyboard lines are quite faint and less pronounced here while the piano keys dominate and are perfect in their placement. The careful design behind is obvious, similarly to Dusk ov Shadows' song 'Ashen Angels', though much uglier than that.

It ends with 'Dystert sind', which is the Nortt song with the most different versions. It first appeared as an intro in 'Nattetale', after that it was reworked as an outro for this EP and later on, two different versions, presumably from the same recording, appeared in 'Mournful Monuments' and 'Gudsforladt', again as outros. The early one is pretty somber and dominated by a cello-like synth, while the final ones are chilling and anxiety-inducing due to a piercing synth line. This is my personal favourite version as the keyboard line is slightly subdued - making it more solemn than uneasy - and the soothing cello plays in parallel so it combines the best from all of them.

To sum up, this is an obscure EP widely available only through the version in the split with Xasthur. Both songs were re-recorded and improved later. Though it is difficult to claim that this is the highlight of his career, this EP is unparalleled in its effect upon the listener. It is completely devastating; you are crushed under the oppressive sound, not because of an ultra-heavy wall of sound but because of the suffocating effect given by the ultra-distorted guitars. Moreover, the gentle piano juxtaposing this assault on the ears will allow you to not even realize you are going down. It gives you just the right amount of light in order to endure until the end. It is short in length but massive in the crushing heaviness of the depression that is spilling on you in waves. It literally sucks any light out of you and when you are on the brink, it offers tiny relief through the piano keys. Just when you try to gasp for air, the vocals drown you in sheer misery. It is all pitch black, cold, harsh, stranded and desperate.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Hedengangen (Intro)
2. Glemt
3. Død og borte
4. Dystert sind (Outro)

Duration : Approx. 17 minutes

Visit the Nortt bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-02-20 by Klamerin Malamov
Rotten Copper
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