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Norot - Nathrach

by Danny Sanderson at 12 August 2015, 9:11 PM

Ireland may not have the largest or most celebrated Metal scene on the planet, but when Metal music comes out of here, it really is something memorable for all the right reasons. You only have to look to bands like PRIMORDIAL and DARKEST ERA to see that the Metal scene on the Emerald Isle is not quite like any other, and produces some really great, unique bands. Although the mastermind behind this musical entity is not a native Irishman, NOROT is no exception to this rule; the one man Black Metal act hailing from Cork, by way of New Orleans, Louisiana, has, much like the music scenes that birthed it, given us sporadic gems, right from the release of the "Serpent of Fire" single back in 2008. With a succession of singles and demos following after a six year silence, it was clear that all of this material was building up to something great; that great thing is the bands first full length, "Nathrach", a potent slab of unique, powerful Atmospheric Black Metal that is not to be missed.

When you bear in mind that six out of the eleven songs on here have been released as singles, and that a whole nine out of ten of them saw the light of day around a year ago in demo form, two things become abundantly clear; Firstly, the fact that just over half of the songs on here were released as singles suggests that there is very little "filler" on here. Point out any given band in any given scene, and it's probable that, at a stretch, they might have released three songs off of an upcoming record, touting them as the lead songs on that particular album. The fact that this record contains six illustrates that this isn't your average album, and is a testament to the time and care that has gone into crafting this music. Secondly, all but two tracks have already been available for fans to hear over the last year, meaning that there's been plenty of time to listen to what's there, digest it, and anticipate what the finished product is going to sound like. As a result, expectations are high and interest has already been generated even before the first note of the first song has been played, and you’re anticipating something fantastic.

The short, opening piece that starts this album off, "The Old Serpent", helps to really build expectation in the listener and get them ready and excited for what is coming over the following ten tracks. It comprises of a guitar line with a clean tone, all wrapped up in some wonderful atmospherics that add an aura of menace to the music. Appetites suitably whetted, we're treated to the first full song on the record, "Lightbearer"; The opening riff slowly builds up to a fierce, razor sharp and atmospheric piece of Black Metal, with gnarly, rasping vocals and wailing leads that sound amazing. It sounds absolutely monolithic, and is a great way to get the album started and set the bar for the following nine songs. "The Dreaming Maelstrom" and "Haunted Sleep" raise that bar even higher, the first being a mesmerising piece of music that draws the listener in, and the latter being an onslaught of powerful riffs, visceral vocal delivery and haunting ambience. The fifth track on here, "Vast and Luminous", is a much more measured track, characterised by a mellow piece of distorted music that helps break up the album. Like many good instrumental pieces, it acts as a calm before the coming storm, and leaves a lasting effect even though it is relatively short. It leads directly into "The End of All Things", a dark, mid-paced epic that again has the indefinable quality that can get you completely hooked on it instantly. Whereas the previous two tracks have been much more laid back and relaxed, "Her Woven Abyss" sounds significantly more aggressive, with thick, beefy guitar lines and juggernaut drumming that complement the vocals and the atmosphere perfectly. The varied kinds of vocals used on this track, from the aforementioned Black Metal snarl through to clean chants, make the vocal performance on this track in particular one of the most enjoyable and memorable on the whole album. Then we come to "The Howling Void", a song that utilises cleaner tones and transcendent ambient pieces extremely well. The vocals are, likewise, much more subdued, and this works very well with the music on offer here. What comes next, "A Bitter Harvest", is another short atmospheric piece that breaks the album up nicely. At points it sounds almost psychedelic, and it's this sort of progressive quality that makes it sound as good as it does. It leads quite smoothly into "Lunar Ascendant", a long, sprawling track that continues in the vein of the preceding song, with a far more serene air to it. The clean tones that are used throughout this track, counter-pointed by the acidic vocals, are a really good combination, and it ebbs and flows, pulling you along with it. It's easily one of the best tracks on here. Then we come to the final track on this record, the colossal and epic sounding "Serpent of Fire"; clocking in at over ten minutes long, this is the albums longest piece of music by a few minutes, and this amount of time allows for plenty of different elements and components to be added to the mix. This one of the more ferocious songs on here, and is, in part, a grim and interesting slab of Black Metal fury. We get to sample some melodic guitar lines, and, of course, some more potent atmospheric sections, but this song is, in essence, a very strong Black Metal track cloaked in a thick layer of ambience. It's a fantastic closing gambit to an excellent record.

This is definitely not your typical Black Metal record. The influences and styles utilised on here are so varied and eclectic that it has its own unique. Whereas you'll get an average Black Metal record that is either harsh and aggressive or much more subdued and atmospheric, this record manages to mix the two very well, and the result is an album that jumps between the two expertly. If you want a straightforward Black Metal release, look somewhere else; this is some truly idiosyncratic stuff.

4 Star Rating

1. The Old Serpent
2. Lightbearer
3. The Dreaming Maelstrom
4. Haunted Sleep
5. Vast and Luminous
6. The End of All Things
7. The Howling Void
8. Her Woven Abyss
9. A Bitter Harvest
10. Lunar Ascendant
11. Serpent of Fire
Robert W. Cook - Vocals, All Instruments
Record Label: Naturmacht Productions


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