Germany’s NAGELFAR is one of the great unsung heroes of the Black Metal scene. Though they only put out three official releases (except a slew of demos and EPs) they have walked the Black Metal path diligently and delivered strong albums throughout their career. This is a re-release of their final album and it is a solid proof of their underrated genius.
They may be best remembered for their more experimental/cosmic works like “Strontgorrth”, but in my opinion “Virus West” is the definitive NAGELFAR statement. On here they jettisoned the experimental touches, replacing them with a much more lethal and nasty Black Metal sound that strongly recalls the mid-paced riff-heavy works of early DARKTHRONE and CARPATHIAN FOREST. Great stuff if you ask me! These seven songs are hefty in duration but aside from the rather superfluous instrumental “Westwall” they never get boring for a second. Waves of forceful riffs and rabid vocals are complemented by the occasional and very effective acoustic interlude, hypnotic chant and medieval-ish trumpet flourish. There are a multitude of enjoyable morsels to sink your teeth into here: the grim yet epic main riff in opener “Hellebarn”, the Middle-Eastern melodies in “Sturm Der Katarsis” or the all-out aural assault of “”Fäden Des Schicksals” – winners all of them. As mentioned before, the key to this album’s strength lies in its subtle sense of balance. The songs are lengthy but the sparse (and unpretentious) experimental touches add just enough variety to ensure they don’t come off as repetitive.
I also have to give kudos to whoever handled production duties here, as the sound is absolutely top-notch. Now before you kvlt kiddies start bitching about how a good sound is not suitable for Black Metal, let me just say this: these riffs are so good that a muddy production would have neutered its potency. There is just too much going on here that is actually worth hearing so worrying about tr00 production is just absolutely idiotic. The vocals are spot on, whether it’s the raspy acerbic lines in the aforementioned “Fäden…” or the underlying chants that occasionally show up. The riffs and drums combine to create a vibe that owes as much to early 90s Black Metal as it does to 80s Thrash. If stuff like GORGOROTH’s “Possessed By Satan” or CARPATHIAN FOREST’s “Sadomasochistic” is your cup of blood then this will be the best thing since spiked belts for you!!
An underrated classic (a bit of a contradiction in terms but whatever…), that should occupy a space in every BM fiend’s collection. Proof that peddling true Black Metal does not mean that creativity has to fly out the window. Listen and learn! Oh, and headbang too… because Satan says so!!!
(Online May 20, 2007)