After two and a half years MÅNEGARM return with another masterpiece. The Swedish Viking Metalheads really broke all records with their 2007 release “Vargstenen” and the expectations from me and many other fans were therefore furiously high concerning “Nattväsen”. You can probably draw conclusions about the outcome from the review’s first sentence.
“Nattväsen” is not a concept album like “Vargstenen”, but the songs are still thematically connected, concerning the night, its creatures, powers and wisdom, all connected to Nordic Viking Age mythology and folklore, as usual. The lyrics were superb on “Vargstenen”, much because of the consistency which a concept album gives. Here, the lyrics are still very good, but have gone from story-telling to an approach that tries to capture moments and the feelings that go along with it.
Alright, let us go on to the music, at last. The fundament is as always MÅNEGARM’s own brand of Viking Metal that takes all that is good from Black Metal, Death Metal and Folk Metal and combines it to a unique result. This time, the band has incorporated a few new elements into the mix, and they work really well. “Nattväsen” is darker than “Vargstenen” in the overall feeling, but there are more melodic parts thrown in than ever. The sound oozes of melancholy and darkness, but beauty is always hidden just behind, ready to flow out in the softer passages. What is new on this album is mainly that Erik Grawsiö has developed his clean vocals even further. In a review I wrote about “Vargstenen” I wrote: “Grawsiö has always been a very powerful growler, but the clean vocals from him on this album are astonishing. He uses a new and more chanting voice on some of the vocals on this release”. This time he has incorporated yet another style. That is a clean singing inspired by Punk that is unpolished, a little nasal, fairly high-pitched, often on the border between clean and harsh and very powerful. That style combined with the Folk singing from "Vargstenen" and his trademark Death/Black growls make him a world class vocalist on this release, in my opinion.
Otherwise, MÅNEGARM’s main strength is, as always, the impressive cooperation between the violin and the guitars. The violin melodies entwine with the riffing or are put in the breaks to give variation, and it works so well. The drumming is so flawless that I haven’t even thought about it. Overall, the guitars and bass do such a competent job to build the fundaments of each song that they are sometimes taken for granted. There is some very interesting folky guitar work, though, for example on “Nattsjäl, Drömsjäl”.
You could say in short that “Nattväsen” features beautiful and fairly calm melodies beneath a dark and melancholy Metal covering. All the songs on here are great, even if “Bergagasten”, “Draugen” and “Hraesvelg” (which is only an interlude, though) aren’t on quite the same level as the others. The real killer on here is “Nattsjäl, Drömsjäl”, but there is so much great music on here. It is a shame that I don’t say more about all the great moments in the other songs, but that would fill several pages. I must however say that the mostly acoustic/folky closer “Delling” has some of the best lyrics Pierre Wilhelmsson has ever written. This album is compulsory to own for those with any interest in this genre and even if it can’t quite match “Vargstenen” in my opinion, it is still up there with it. Go and buy this now, or miss the obvious album of the year!
(Online December 21, 2009)