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Nodfyr - Eigenheid Award winner

Nodfyr
Eigenheid
by Kira Schlechter at 06 April 2021, 6:23 AM

When lyrics are not in most people’s native tongue, the quality of the music – even down to the singing itself – becomes paramount. NODFYR understands that instinctively on their debut full-length album, “Eigenheid.” The name of the heathen metal band from Gelderland, Netherlands, refers to “the Germanic pagan practice of fire-making” and is, as it says on the band’s website, “one of the oldest (proto-) Dutch words.” The album’s title, as they say on their Bandcamp page, means “identity (or) characteristic” and is “the result of an introspective journey in search of what defines us.” It follows their 2017 EP, “In een andere tijd.”

And it begins appropriately with what they say is “an ode to our distant ancestors, the ancient Germanic peoples that we descended from,” “Mijn Oude Volk.” A drone of programming and what sounds like hammered dulcimer play through a spare, haunting melody a few times, then gradually slow and stop to proceed to a slow, potent lumber with layers of strummed guitar. Joris places his big, resonant baritone over those layers and layers of stately, grandiose melody – he’s not oppressive, so there’s a lot of space in his singing in the two verses. A slight variation on that opening melody, then a perfect transition into a blast beat takeover – his stentorian voice is the steady port in the chaotic musical storm raging around him. In another easy transition, the drumming gets insanely fast, the guitar lazing atop this blend of doom/black metal laden with the darker elements of folk. A higher tenor voice joins Joris, his nearly operatic tone blending beautifully, their harmony full and developed. The bridge is a stately stop-and-start stride, punctuated by wah guitar exclamations before the speed picks up again to those ridiculous levels. Another gorgeous dark melody courtesy of the keyboards and guitar riffs, slower drumming heavy on the cymbal, and another round of that beautifully masculine low-end harmony singing brings it to a close.

“Gelre, Gelre” (its title a tribute to their homeland) has that “dulcimer” sound delivering a decidedly folk melody (repeated once, then again with a variation), before a wonderful groove sets up under it and adds muscle to the tune’s delicacy. Joris could be brought up a bit in the mix, but that’s the black metal part of their pedigree – the higher voice joins in harmony on alternated lines of the chorus. In the next verse, most of the layers drop out for a moment to focus on Joris’ voice alone before the chorus and that’s a lovely touch. The same initial melody leads into the guitar solo, then the guitar appropriates it, adding and subtracting to it as it goes, and that, too is a folk technique, a melody carrying over from one instrument to another to be re-interpreted. An ending that’s purely metal in so many ways, all chug and grit and wah-laden guitar, sees it out.

The band says on their Facebook page that “Wording” is “about discovering one’s own destiny, shaping one’s own future, the unraveling of fate and becoming who we really are.” And indeed, it has a murky, mysterious feel, all super detuned, plodding black doom with a groove that slows and hitches along; the keyboard keens in the background to emphasize it. Joris’ voice is a sinister chant, ringing authoritatively over the guitar snarling, then the guitar plays that melody again before he sings again (and a creepy keyboard plink sneaks in to lurk beside him). The chorus is a mastery of tricky tempo shifts thanks to the drumming, which almost suspends it in mid air before dropping it back to earth again. The solo is the main guitar riff melody with the solo guitar blazing and buzzing and that same suspended drumming bit – it’s like the chorus without words. The last verse is the bass sexily playing the guitar riff melody, the drums casually easing it along, before Joris and that keyboard come in again, then it builds back together as before and adds touches of vocal overdubbing and a higher harmony in the last chorus as a descant. The end is an erratic drum-crazed bit of chaos to break the track’s rigid discipline.

“Driekusman” begins as a sprightly accordion and whistle dance, with hand-held drum keeping the beat, and as their Facebook page says, this instrumental is indeed a dance from the eastern Netherlands “about an impossible love.” It’s all very well and happy until the keyboard screams out the same melody, accompanied by raging guitar and wailing feedback, then it changes keys to turn the dance to a danse macabre, crashing cymbals and all. The key changes happen back and forth, but the melody remains intact and completely hummable. The guitar takes over the initial melody and takes it apart a bit, the keyboards adding eeriness, then it plays it in its entirety, those key changes getting even more sinister in its hands. That “impossible love” obviously didn’t end well.

Surf-style drums start “Bloedlijn,” then the strumming guitar picks up the same tempo and establishes the unforgettable melody until it slows to near doom proportions. Joris sings two verses, with his now-expected excellent diction and booming resonance – the loveliness of the layerings of guitar melody underneath is reminiscent of WOLFHEART in its haunting, heartbreaking feel. It quiets to that dulcimer sound again in another melody, with a keyboard drone to support it and drumming then going against the rhythm it initially set. Blast beats speed everything up, with that melody remaining as the reference point, then they slip away and return to Joris singing another verse in a slightly higher register. The bridge is a rich swinging groove and his deeper vocal, then a gorgeous solo with more of that layered guitar melody and a lovely airy solo rising atop it. It goes through many moods, but it’s never jarring because that melody keeps the continuity in such a solid way.

“Zelf” is almost a march in the assertive and bold guitar riffing; the drums then pick up to match it exactly, syncopated and brisk. An elusive alternate guitar melody over the top grabs your attention – their knack for that is admirable. While they firmly establish a theme, nothing gets numbing, so when that bit comes in, your ears go, oh hello – it’s such a nice surprise. Joris is at his booming baritone best in the verse with that melody still going on and scattershot low-end drumming rattling around beneath. Then it slows and stretches out, the same riffing idea there, just more elongated; Joris is reaching in his shoes for those low notes but not struggling. A different riffing melody then takes over, and the mid and low vocals pair with blast beats, along with a seriously stinging, chilling keyboard melody that’s almost flute- or whistle-like. The march begins anew, but slightly different yet again – simplified – then it swings into an almost bluesy solo section with lots of sass and mojo on the guitar, the switch to the double kick drumming adding a cool dimension to that. When the swing returns, it becomes kind of a logical outgrowth of the initial march idea. The instrumental sections are really compelling (this is over 7 minutes but it doesn't feel like it), and when it returns to the march again with that drifting melody, it brings it all full circle.

“Nagedachtenis” begins with flute, acoustic guitar, and folk-style drumming, very raw and pristine and delicate – when the riffing kicks in, it’s the same melody set to a glorious swing. Joris’ voice is sweet and almost tender in its tone above that solid base of rock-solid riffing. It sounds grieving in some ways, mournful, and when he moves into those higher notes, you can feel the emotion even if you don’t understand the words. The beginning section is repeated, just briefly, then a swelling wordless choir-like vocal that’s just brief but has such impact. Back to Joris – his voice has such power, but he never over-sings and with that swing, it’s an irresistible combination. By the time we reach the beginning section once again, it’s very clear that a story is being told here, and these sections serve as maybe moments to breathe and reflect on the action. A guitar solo then, with that ever-present swing, and the choir-like vocal again – it’s so unique to hear non-metal-style vocals like these in a metal context. They drop out to just the swing and the riffing, with ever-so-slight changes in the melody. And it ends as it began, of course.

It’s albums like “Eigenheid” that might sway me off English-language metal – maybe not for good, but definitely regularly. NODFYR blends beauty and brawn into an intoxicating brew.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Mijn Oude Volk
2. Gelre, Gelre
3. Wording
4. Driekusman
5. Bloedlijn
6. Zelf
7. Nagedachtenis
Lineup:
Joris - Vocals
Jasper - Vocals, Keyboard
Mark - Vocals, Guitar
Record Label: Van Records
     


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