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Nortt : Endeligt

After a decade long hiatus, Nortt returned from the undead in 2017 with one goal above all - melancholy.

2017 was a particularly good year for Black Doom as we saw new albums by some of its greatest acts like Funeralium, Mourning Dawn, Funeral Mourning, Darkflight and The Ruins of Beverast. The year saw the return of the mighty Deinonychus after a decade of silence. In addition, the undisputed forefathers of it all, Bethlehem, who had been dwelling in the avantgarde for the last twenty years, went straight back to 1995's 'Dictius Te Necare' sound with their latest eponymous album released a month before the start of 2017.

In this high-class company, we see another major return after a decade long hiatus - Nortt. He began his career over twenty years ago with a trio of riff based demo tapes and by the third one, 'Graven', he had earned his place among the finest doom bands with a unique, personal sound. An EP emerged in the meantime showing the extremity his music could reach in terms of distortion and ugliness. All this evolved into the compressed misery of 'Gudsforladt', the quintessence of depression, which reached perfection in sound and 'Ligfærd', the quintessence of desolation, which reached perfection in structure. This downward spiral took him to 'Galgenfrist' where the music felt deconstructed and finally dissolved. After that, there was silence, Nortt disappeared into the nothingness and vanished for a decade.

From the very promo photo we notice signs of maturity - Nortt presents himself in a more human light, gone is the blackish imagery of the monochromatic man in the woods trying to be evil. Now we see a solitary, faceless musician at the grand piano and start salivating immediately as we know what to expect.

Despite the short duration of the tracks, which recall 'Gudsforladt', their structure bears more similarities to the two preceding albums, only packaged in shorter form. All of the songs in 'Endeligt' were composed with vast time spans between them, each recorded in its own session with slightly different production (he even considered it as a compilation of unreleased songs at one point). Fortunately, he mastered it perfectly without interrupting the flow as the album maintains cohesion at all times. Due to the scattered ambient breaks, it needs to be listened as a whole in order to make sense.

His formula remains unchanged and once again, he takes it to perfection. This is Nortt distilled, pure and dense. Even though it sounds different from before, the changes are actually quite subtle. The trademark guitar sound for nearly two decades is now quite warmer, not as harsh and cold. It lost the abrasive and raspy edge, but it is used in much the same way. Still, almost nothing is left of the black metal cold and icy atmosphere. Add to this the heavy piano-centric approach and an intentionally catchier sound and you can see why it might seem mellower than in the past. Therefore, while it was built using the same tools as before, it shows a different side of Nortt. By changing the tonality of the instruments, he managed to paint a completely different picture. It is very accessible and easy on the ears, while still providing tons of melancholy and desolation. It features the best from both worlds - the later period alienating structure combined with the earliest demo-phase warmth of sound.

For the first time there is no dedicated intro, instead it is incorporated into the first song which starts right where 'Galgenfrist' left off but this time there are slight industrial overtones during the ambient which keep the attention and act as a nice introduction to the atmosphere. After the intro, we get the lovely piano we have been expecting since we looked at the band photo. All the elements from before are here - the blackish screams, the solemn piano, the keyboard lines and the slow, dragging guitar that now gives a warm feeling of melancholy. It is obvious that Nortt moved back to the mortal worlds, this is no longer music from the undead zone. The production is top notch, very clean, with each instrument having enough space which enhances it all, providing a rich full sound, warm but not cheesy.

The music is passive and introverted consisting of depleting notes. It feels lighter due to the less guitar-based approach. No longer is each note scraping on your frostbitten skin. The music can even be called elegant in its execution. There is almost nothing of the black metal roots left but the screams; it has become pure funeral doom. The vocals are the last element giving an edge to the sound and though they are slightly subdued and not so vicious anymore they still reek of desperation and wretchedness. They still sound as harsh as ever, as always sung in Danish, and are the main ingredient keeping the pitch-black layer over the whole. It floods with misery, compensating for the other toned down aspects.

The guitar has less heavy presence in general, not so much to the foreground, but it is stunning and mesmerizing. The riffs are calm and solitary. The drums have authority with their thumping force and stay in the foreground, giving it a more rhythmic feeling. The melody is always fantastic with distant depleting chords that give a sense of finality. It is like an elegy and sounds fresh even though it is nothing groundbreaking. The keyboard lines are truly divine and seem otherworldly, pouring restrained melancholy.

Piano is a major instrument here, it is very prominent and it completes the music instead of juxtaposing it. In the past, the piano was a shimmering light coming through the intense noise so it was the contrast that highlighted it amidst the ugly depression. Here it works as part of the whole, playing in perfect unison, often leading the rest of the instruments.

The highlight of the album is the brilliant 'Støv for vinden', which is one of the very best songs Nortt has ever written. It starts with delicate piano/key notes that get sparser, soon joined by tortured vocals and distant guitar crawling in the arid dust. The effect is astonishingly suffocating, stranded and full of sorrow.

The cover art and the song titles show that Nortt is still preoccupied with death (the title of the record means 'death' or 'cease to exist' after all). Despite this, the album does not evoke such a picture of graves as previously. Here we are fully able to hurt once again, we are not as far gone, we are among the living, vulnerable and tragic.

The ambient interludes are no longer bland, but entertaining as keys and overtones keep it engaging without removing all the emotional buildup. Despite this with such a short duration of the record, the ambient feels superfluous at times as I am craving more of the intense musical depression.

For an artist that is so strictly confined within his own narrow limits of expressions (in his own words the spirit of his music remains unchanged, only the body evolves), it is amazing that he can produce such distinct shades of music, albums that sound so different from one another even when using the same basic means. After seemingly exhausting all options, he still emerged fresher than ever and revitalized. 'Endeligt' is a brief little gem of eternal melancholy that will constantly leave you in awe, longing for more.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Andægtigt dødsfald
2. Lovsang til mørket
3. Kisteglad
4. Fra hæld til intet
5. Eftermæle
6. Afdø
7. Gravrøst
8. Støv for vinden
9. Endeligt

Duration : Approx. 39 minutes

Visit the Nortt bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-02-20 by Klamerin Malamov
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