Nokturnal Mortum

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Lunar Poetry

Nokturnal Mortum - Lunar Poetry ©1996 Demo
1. Tears Of Paganism
2. Lunar Poetry
3. Perun's Celestial Silver
4. Carpathian Mysterious
5. ..And Winter Becomes
6. Ancient Nation
7. The Grief Of Oriana
8. Sorrows Of The Moon
9. Autodafe -Barbarian Dreams

Lunar Poetry represents the original demo release from Ukraine's Nokturnal Mortum and easily set the stage for their later music. The music on the demo is essentially the foundation for the sound heard on their first worldwide release, Goat Horns, and is nearly as satisfying as that particular release. Although recorded as a demo, Lunar Poetry has a very crisp and full sound that emphasizes all their musical elements very well, without any one aspect being overshadowed. Similiar to Limbonic Art in their reliance on rumbling rhythm patterns and keyboard usage, Nokturnal Mortum did a fine job of capturing both the bleakness of black metal as well as a more ethnic representation of their own culture's music, albeit not so developed as later releases. The music is extremely fluid and tends to lean towards a more majestic and beautiful sound than harshness of black metal. "Carpathian Mysterious", among others, falls into that area. The band also covers Celtic Frost's "Sorrows of the Moon" with a nice degree of skill.

With luck Lunar Poetry will eventually see a reissue in order to help fans of this excellent band finally get their paws on a copy. Regardless of occasional inexperience that is typical for a demo, Lunar Poetry is a beautiful, stirring and impressive album that utterly requires your attention if you have any liking for a keyboard laden black metal assault.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2000

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Goat Horns

Nokturnal Mortum - Goat Horns ©1998 The End Records
1. Black Moon Overture
2. Kuyaviya
3. Goat Horns
4. Unholy Orathani
5. Veles' Scrolls
6. Kolyada
7. Eternal Circle

So have you ever sat under a darkened sky in the middle of a frozen wasteland and thought to yourself, "I wonder what Emperor would sound like had Mortiis stayed in the band and allowed that influence to affect the music"? Well, rather than allow you sit and freeze your black metal tushy off, Nokturnal Mortum (who hail from the Ukraine) has given the answer! And the answer is good. Aside from the rather blatantly silly title of this album, which in my opinion is completely not indicative of what this band's music represents, this lush masterpiece of black metal, classical, folk, and dungeon music is one of the most exciting releases I've heard in quite some time. "Black Moon Overture" is a very classically influenced keyboard/synthetic instrumental piece that anchors you in for the explosion of madness that lies ahead. Singer/guitar Varggoth's rasp (not really a scream, but not really a death sound either), along with that heavily distorted "roaring" bass and haunting keyboards, brings you through a whole new dimension of aural destruction. Each song is cleverly constucted and makes great use of throwing in the odd instrumentation and effect. In fact, I can't say enough good things about this record...this is one of those rare albums I want to listen to over and over again.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/1998

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To The Gates Of Blasphemous Fire

Nokturnal Mortum - To The Gates Of Blasphemous Fire ©1999 The End Records
1. Bestial Summoning
2. To The Gates Of Blasphemous Fire
3. On The Moonlight Path
4. The Hands Of Chaos
5. Under The Banners Of The Horned Kniaz
6. The 13th Asbath Celebration
7. Cheremosh
8. The Forgotten Ages Of Victories

When a band releases such a great album as Goat Horns (released in 1998 by The End Records), any further releases will always be slightly colored by your love for that particular album. Had any other black metal band in the world released To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire, I would be immediately praising them as much as inhumanly possible. Yet in this case, I keep thinking to myself that this lacks something in comparison to Goat Horns.

But enough of living in the past. For To the Gates, Ukraine's Nokturnal Mortum opts for the more trodden black metal path through the forest. Overall the album has a very Emperor-esque feel from In the Nightside Eclipse era, with still a lot of emphasis on keyboard and symphonic atmospherics. In comparison to Goat Horns, the guitars are much more forward and intense. The main sound this time seems to be a chaotic maelstrom. Each song has a lot going on within, some of it at the forefront and much of it bubbling in the sublime, requiring more than a couple listens to summon forth. Some of the folkish influence does burst out, as in the bizarre but ultimately satisfying keyboards on "On the Moonlight Path".

As I stated above, this album's only major flaw is that it has the unenviable task of following up a truly phenomenal album. Goat Horns had such an identifiable and fulfilling sound and atmosphere that it makes To the Gates pale slightly. But only slightly. Nokturnal Mortum is still one of the brightest - er, make that darkest - outfits to be playing black metal and To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire is as solid and well done as they come.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/1999

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Nokturnal Mortum - NeChrist ©2000 The End Records
1. The Funeral Wind Born In Oriana
2. Night Before The Fight
3. Black Raven
4. The Call Of Aryan Spirit
5. The Child Of Swamps And Full Moon
6. Death Damnation
7. In The Fire Of The Wooden Churches
8. Jesus' Blood
9. Nechrist: The Dance Of Swords
10. Perun's Celestial Silver

It seems rather evident that Ukraine's Nokturnal Mortum is not going to make this easy for you. Now on their third worldwide album, these challengers to the throne of the king of black metal have continued their process of draining all color from the music to essentially make a difficult and superficially unattractive album. While NeChrist's roots can easily be traced back to its two predecessors, To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire and Goat Horns, the presentation is done in a much less friendly way than either particular album. Those who heard band leader Knjaz Varggoth's solo release The Keys of Gates of the Apocalypses will firmly agree that no one involved in this outfit are going to hold your little hand. Whether that turns off potential listeners is in question but longtime fans of the band should be able to get past the initial first impression of a strange production.

Musically, Nokturnal Mortum seems to have returned a bit more to the folkish vibe of Goat Horns, only layered with the more apocalyptic barrage of To the Gates... The production of the album renders the music into a somewhat flat and oblique landscape where all the instruments can be heard but not quite where you might comfortably expect them. As with genre-defining efforts such as Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger, the production actually makes a lot of sense once you get past the obligatory discomfort. The flutes, folk influences and nature sound passages all add to the overall atmosphere of the album, while the blistering, chaotic music does remind you that, indeed, this is a black metal album. And since this music is quite layered, each listen does bring out more clarity and understanding of how the music is supposed to work.

On a more negative side, the band seems to be pandering to the current sweeping trend of Nazism in black metal with the ever-so-trendy eighty-eight tracks (which actually boil down to a ton of very short tracks of nature sounds leading up to the "hidden" eighty-eighth track, which so happens to be a very excellent piece). If you don't know what "88" stands for, there are a few websites out there that will inform you of the supposedly meaningful numbers. The inlay card features a circular assault rifle and upside down cross motif. While this does indeed represent hatred and the anti-christian ideals of black metal, it comes across as quite silly and simply another method of adhering to the latest trend of violence and chronic shock value in black metal. I'd much rather the band let their impressive music do the talking for them, rather than espousing the "Hail Hitler" nonsense. There are those who, rightfully so, will not bother with NeChrist for what could very well be a superficial Nazi tie-in that comes across either as incredibly ironic (as more than one historian has noted, Hitler was no fan of the Ukrainian people) or a self-defeating, self-induced parody. As a result, some of the band's excellent music might not be appreciated as widely has it potentially could.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2000

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Lunar Poetry (reissue)

Nokturnal Mortum - Lunar Poetry (reissue) ©2001 The End Records
1. Tears Of Paganism
2. Lunar Poetry
3. Perun's Celestial Silver
4. Carpathian Mysteries
5. ...And Winter Becomes
6. Ancient Nation
7. The Grief Of Oriana
8. Sorrows Of The Moon
9. Autodafe / Barbarian's Dreams
10. Return Of The Vampire Lord (bonus Track)

A little comment concerning the reissue of Nokturnal Mortum's infamous 1996 demo, Lunar Poetry, by The End Records: about freakin' time!

As noted in my earlier review of the demo, Lunar Poetry firmly established the Ukrainian band's style and set a fantastic foundation for their music from that point on. This reissue sets this demo to CD and adds a bonus track and new cover art for extra measure. Although you can hear tape hiss, suggesting the CD was mastered from a cassette copy of the demo, the sound quality is very good throughout. The band's wonderfully fluid, symphonic black metal is unequalled in its ability to provide a harsh bleak edge to a brilliantly orchestrated sound. While vast legions of keyboard wielding black metal bands spend entire careers trying to create this majestic of a sound, Nokturnal Mortum proved they had already nailed it with this demo. The folkish elements, liquid guitar runs and rumbling underbelly of the beast all work together in creating a fabulous foray in symphonic black metal.

Utterly required for anyone who has enjoyed Nokturnal Mortum's releases since their relationship with The End Records began, Lunar Poetry is a great reissue for one of the best bands playing black metal today.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/2001

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The Taste of Victory

Nokturnal Mortum - The Taste of Victory ©2003 Oriana Productions
1. Weltanschauung
2. The New Era of Swords
3. The Taste of Victory
4. As the Steel Eagle Into Golden Svarga

As I've noted in earlier reviews about Nokturnal Mortum, this Ukrainian act chose to spend much of the first decade of the 21st century in self inflicted obscurity. This time period was spent releasing fairly obscure EPs, repackaging old releases and generally being as defiantly underground as possible. While it's likely they chose to focus on having sole control of their musical output through Oriana Productions, they certainly did spend the decade wandering through the wilderness (mind you, with heroic broadswords). As a result, those of us who were becoming fans in the late 90s ultimately checked out and forgot about their existence to a certain degree.

Thanks to the wonders of the digital world (and hovercars), it is obviously easy to catch up on their output, as well as wade through their somewhat confusing discography. This 2003 EP, a forty two minute affair called The Taste of Victory, has been repackaged a couple different times to take advantage of the fact that different formats exist in the world (ie: cassettes, CDs, CDs in a DVD case). And of course, three of these songs appeared on their 2005 release Weltanschauung. The fourth track, "As the Steel Eagle Into Golden Svarga", was recorded a couple years earlier for an aborted split album. Given that seventy percent of this material resurfaced elsewhere, it does make one wonder about the necessity for anyone but the most devoted collectors of the band. Regardless, the songs here do find the band stepping back away from the precipice of NeChrist, where they seemed bent on alienating everyone but their drinking buddies. The band's folk influenced sound resurfaces and they obviously were in quite the epic mood during the songwriting process. The title track even finds Knjaz Varggoth offering up some clean, warrior-esque vocals (surprisingly not too shabby, considering most attempts at cleaner singing by black metal shriekers often is cringe inducing and/or hilarious). The final song, the aforementioned "Steel Eagle", is a bit more remiscient of their 90s material, which is not surprisingly considering it was recorded in 2001.

Nokturnal Mortum has certainly released better material elsewhere during their existence, but this so-called EP actually isn't a bad effort overall. It may or may not be worth tracking down since most of it can be heard elsewhere, but the band does a credible job of fusing in some folk elements without going overboard with them.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2012

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Return of the Vampire Lord / Marble Moon

Nokturnal Mortum - Return of the Vampire Lord / Marble Moon ©2003 Oriana Music
1. Return of the Vampire Lord
2. Mi Agama Khaz Mifisto
3. Crystaline Darkness
4. Intro / Hymn of Our Fatherland
5. On the Moonlight Path (demo version)
6. Swallow (instrumental version)
7. Family Vault (cover of Death SS)
8. Cheremosh (demo version)
9. Swallow (Outro)
10. My Journey to the Stars (cover of Burzum)
11. Thurisaz (cover of Graveland)

After parting ways with their US label, The End Records, Nokturnal Mortum formed their own label and essentially did whatever they could to reclaim their obscurity and earn True Black Metal Brownie Points™. This of course included association with various white supremacy groups and other lame nonsense. Their albums up to 2000's divisive NeChrist had demonstrated this Ukranian band had a considerable amount of musical vision, despite having their philosophical heads up their philosophical butts. While their recording activities have been considerably less prolific after NeChrist, the band has been issuing a few goodies for those who weren't completely appalled by their questionable ethics.

Return of the Vampire Lord/Marble Moon collects early demo, EP and otherwise hard to find material onto a single release. "Return of the Vampire Lord" is a song that could be found on a split album with Lucifugum. The lengthy track is akin to the sound found around the Goat Horns era, jackhammer drum machine and all. The following two tracks are two very early demo tracks when the project was called Crystaline Darkness. These two songs are very rough and honestly aren't particularly good at all. Even in a historical context, they're pretty weak. The band honed their skills greatly from their earliest days. The Marble Moon EP is a strange entity. This portion of the CD opens with what apparently is the Ukranian national anthem. It's the sort of thing you'd hear as Ukraine's finest athletes receive their Olympic medals after winning the butterfly stroke event. There's no doubting these boys are rather fond of their homeland, but it's a weird inclusion for a black metal release. Marble Moon also features a demo version of "On the Moonlight Path" (which was spiffed up for 1999's To The Gates Of Blasphemous Fire), a couple folkish tunes, and a pretty solid cover of Death SS's "Family Vault". The CD is rounded out by two covers of black metal illuminaries, Burzum and Graveland. Nokturnal Mortum's take on "My Journey to the Stars" is credible, but the precision of the drum machine (if that's a live drummer, they sure make it sound synthetic) weakens the track a bit.

Taken as a whole, this release is musically scattered and varying in quality at times. But it's also an interesting look into one of the more unique eastern European black metal bands. Naturally, their politics make it impossible to suggest sending them money for a copy, but that's why programmers worldwide created illegal file sharing software.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2008

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The Voice of Steel

Nokturnal Mortum - The Voice of Steel ©2009 Oriana
1. Intro
2. Voice of Steel
3. Valkyrie
4. Ukraine
5. My Dream Islands
6. By Path of the Sun
7. Sky of Saddened Nights
8. White Tower

Having spent basically a decade in the wilderness, Ukraine's Nokturnal Mortum apparently seems ready to rejoin the world of the mature, grown-up musicians more interested in writing and performing good heavy metal albums rather than expending vast amounts of energy avoiding a worldwide listening audience. Nokturnal Mortum was poised to establish themselves as a musical force to be reckoned with in the late 90s, but for some reason decided to adopt questionable political views, embrace ideology over musicianship and did everything they could to limit distribution of their own music. Worse yet, they put out a rather alienating record with NeChrist and essentially threw down the gauntlet to say, "We are such twits that we will record subpar music in order to keep people from listening to us." The first decade of the 2000s found them mostly reissuing old demos and EPs. But finally, at the close of the 00s, Nokturnal Mortum has apparently decided to stop being obstinate and has released their finest record since 1998's Goat Horns.

The Voice of Steel (the English translation, as the band performs in their native Ukrainian) finds the band embracing the whole of heavy metal, allowing their songwriting to use the vocabulary of the entire genre, not just exasperating snippets of black metal. The reality is that Nokturnal Mortum is simply at their best when writing epic, grand songs that include their native folk tendencies as well as the symphonic aspects of their earlier material. The result is a fully realized and quite good record. The band, at different points on this lengthy album, channels the spirit of Twilight of the Gods era Bathory, mid 90s Tiamat (mostly on "Sky of Saddened Nights", which reminds me a bit of the mood found on Wildhoney), and even some Hawkwind. In particular, the midsection of "Valkyrie" features great atmospheric dynamics, soaring space rock guitar solos and beautiful orchestration. Throughout the album, Nokturnal Mortum displays the ability to constantly keep songs moving forward and retain the listener's interest. Fortunately, the band seems happy to embrace a good quality production over a half-assed "raw" recording.

This album is by far the best thing the band has released in ages. I'm extremely pleased to hear an album where there seem to be few ulterior motives. Rather, Nokturnal Mortum was motivated solely by the need to write a really good heavy metal album. Outstanding piece of work that avoids all the worst trappings of the black metal subgenre.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2010

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