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Noctule – Wretched Abyss

Wretched Abyss
by Tommy Mulhern at 13 June 2021, 8:43 PM

If you need to portray epicness, majesty or the medieval then there’s a metal genre to fit it better than any other modern musical style. So when I heard a member of the post- hardcore band SVALBARD was making a black metal album based on the video game Skyrim (from The Elder Scrolls series), my immediate reaction was why had nobody thought of it before. The storyline and atmosphere seemed tailor made, surely plenty of choral and string samples and soaring guitars would do it justice. It seemed like a marriage made in one of the ‘Planes of Oblivion’. All signs were pointing to triumph, just how close did our warrior get to it?

NOCTULE is the solo project of Serena Cherry, and this is its debut. A self-professed Skyrim fan, she has played in black metal bands before and could see the compatibility was obvious. The best music and lyrics are nearly always based on personal interests or experience so inspiration wouldn’t seem like a problem here. The album starts off with a real earworm of a song in “Elven Sword", the hooky riff and lead guitar accompanying it being a recurring theme of the record. Up next, “Labyrithian” is slightly slower and more epic with a lovely acoustic guitar bridge to a powerful ending. The title track is interesting but not as complete as my favourite track of them all, “Evenaar", with its beautiful harmony and IHSAHN-esque riffs. Sadly, I think it was after hearing the inventiveness of this song that made the next three sound a bit too similar and unremarkable, except perhaps the middle part of “Deathbell Harvest". The guitar playing is slick throughout the album, just nothing stood out from here on. Another problem I couldn’t ignore was the programmed drumming; it had a lot of out of place fills and strange timing which only got more annoying with each listen. The last track of the album, “Become Ethereal", is an instrumental very much like the background music of the game and is a nice way to sign off. The quest is over but alas it was little less memorable than expected.

Although it may not seem like it, I definitely take more positives than negatives from this record. The sound and style of the guitars and vocals are spot on, and the backing music is well written and very fitting to the theme. I just feel that if there was a real drummer, separate bassist and keyboardist, this project would feel more well rounded and nuanced, maybe even getting up there with the likes of early DIMMU BORGIR or CRADLE OF FILTH. The structure of the songs could stay much the same as is but with the added flair and slight inputs of other top musicians. A very good album for sure, but it promised more with its flashes of genius.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 7
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Elven Sword
2. Labyrithian
3. Wretched Abyss
4. Evenaar
5. Winterhold
6. Deathbell Harvest
7. Unrelenting Force
8. Become Ethereal
Serena Cherry – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards & Programming
Record Label: Church Road Records


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