One problem with most of the more atmospheric (read: slower, wussier/prettier) stylings of Black Metal is that they're awfully static; most forest-y Black Metal rarely gets above 90bpm, most ambient Black Metal just blasts away for a while then goes to a keyboard break for five or so minutes and a lot of depressive stuff stays stuck on the usual 4/4 beats that XASTHUR's been doing for however many years. The end result is that said genres have been awfully stale for some time now.
I liken NASTROND's avoidance of these problems to the way VERDUNKELN manages to make quality, otherworldly Black Metal; mixing the sort of usual atmosphere with, well, big riffs and some sort of non Black influences. But whereas VERDUNKELN seem to get a lot of inspiration from Industrial and maybe even some Post-Punk (well, could've sworn I heard some JOY DIVISION in there), NASTROND inject a couple of cavernous Death-Doom stylings into the mix.
Well, I'm probably a bit wrong about that but there does to seem to be that sort of element to it- there's plenty of huge doomy parts that bring to mind a particularly bummed/angry early MDB, for one, with the faster bits being a bit more traditionally Black Metal. Most of the time it's quite effective, too, the production (which is a bit of an oddity; quite murky but still lots of top end) giving it all a nice sort of atmospheric sheen; although it's oddly inconsistent, the tune "Nastrond" in particular is fairly good, almost professional production, while whenever they slow down things get a bit muddier. Maybe it's the speakers I'm listening to it with, I dunno.
Anyway, this is a pretty good album, certainly tunes like "Fenrir Prophesy" with it's slow, sludgy crawl and various tremelo breaks, and "Svarta Strandar"'s more epic BM stylings sound terrific. It's varied and quite interesting- I guess the main problem is that the songs are a bit too short most of the time. NASTROND often employ some sort of linear structures (as opposed to verse chorus type things), and that's fine by me; however, when they finally break out some furious (well, relatively furious, these guys never get super fast or anything) it never really lasts for very long. It's certainly not a bad thing that they're only doing three minute songs instead of ten minute long snooze fests, however, there's a number of songs on this album ("Ior", "Mouth Of The Sea", "Calling The Serpentine") that would be better if they were a little bit longer. Oh well.
Overall this is a pretty cool album, certainly the amount of Doom-y riffs here have made me like this album a fair bit. The shortness of some of the tunes is a shame, no doubt, but it's not that bad a problem to have, I guess. Worth getting if you like your Black Metal.
(Online June 14, 2008)