Naglfar

Pariah

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AllMusic Review by

When it comes to Scandinavian extreme metal, the general consensus is that Sweden has produced the best death metal, while Norway holds the advantage in the black metal sweepstakes (Denmark and Finland bring up the rear with a few excellent examples in both camps). Of course no one bothered to alert the guys in Naglfar to this stereotype, and the Swedes have thus gone about their business of recording a string of accomplished and "true" black metal releases, such as 2005's Pariah -- their fourth long-player. With the departure of founding vocalist Jens Rydén following 2003's Sheol, this album saw bassist Kristoffer Olivius stepping forward to take over the role of frontman, handling a loss that may have proved fatal to most other bands with what appears to be surprising ease. Indeed, so similar are both men's infernal shrieking that one can hardly tell the difference. Musically, one can't really tell much difference and what preceded it, either, as shockingly profane lyrics and especially blastbeat-driven hyper-speeds remain, far and away, the most prominent weapon in Naglfar's misanthropic arsenal. However, the band is astute enough to know when to alternate these with slower riffs and nefarious melodies, thereby lending standout cuts like "The Murder Manifesto," "None Shall Be Spared," and "Carnal Scorn & Spiritual Malice" with critical doses of variety. Additional points of interest include the sweetly tuneful guitar harmonies coming out of nowhere during "And the World Shall Be Your Grave," the sudden quiet and tentative electronics used midway through "A Swarm of Plagues," and the also cautious use of background symphonic effects (something Naglfar, unlike so many black metal bands, has previously been loathe to mess with) on "The Perpetual Horrors." All told, these various devices in no way reinvent the wheel, nor do they result in any new classics of the genre, but Naglfar are nevertheless pros at executing them. They also know enough not to overstay their welcome, returning to their dark catacombs just in time to leave the listener wanting a little more. Heck -- not bad for a bunch of black metal-playing Swedes!

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